Say that again?
North Korea sent analysts scrambling for a day to try to decipher what appeared to be a claim that it had nuclear weapons, before quieting the buzz today by revising the broadcast.
A commentary on Radio Pyongyang on Sunday night had included a sentence that seemed, to some ears, to move North Korea's official position beyond its often-stated stance that the country is "entitled" to possess nuclear weapons. According to a report by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, the broadcaster said North Korea had "come to have" the weapons.
Yonhap's report caused analysts in Seoul and Tokyo to play and replay tapes of the broadcast today. After much straining and repetition, the verdict was mixed.
But Radio Pyongyang late today rebroadcast the commentary, substituting a clearly enunciated segment for the confusing sentence. The rebroadcast stuck to its long-held position on entitlement, quietly ending the flap.
The North Korean government has asserted its right to have nuclear weapons for what it calls its self-defense. But it has never acknowledged actually having them, and its silence has spawned a long-running guessing game.
International inspectors concluded nearly a decade ago that the North Koreans had the opportunity to divert spent nuclear fuel from old Soviet-made nuclear power plants before 1993. The CIA concluded they could have taken enough to produce one or two nuclear bombs.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he believes Pyongyang has done so, though he admits he cannot prove it. Sources in China, North Korea's ally, have estimated the country has enough plutonium for five or six bombs. Revelations last month that North Korea tried to obtain equipment to process uranium into more weapons-grade fuel has resulted in a diplomatic uproar.
But skeptics doubt North Korea has developed the technical expertise to make a working bomb or missile payload. Pyongyang has never carried out an atomic test, a standard step toward developing a nuclear weapon. And though the government has blustered about having "powerful weapons," it has never clearly claimed to have an atomic weapon.
Most experts today said they doubted North Korea would announce its official membership in the nuclear club in such an offhand remark on the radio. Even Yonhap suggested it might have been a mistake for the usually super-cautious propagandists at Radio Pyongyang, for whom leeway is not permitted.
The revised broadcast seemed to confirm that interpretation. But North Korea offered no explanation for the change -- or on the fate of the broadcaster.
Special correspondent Joohee Cho in Seoul contributed to this report.