Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov says a “catastrophic” development of events between the U.S. and North Korea will occur in the next few days. “It is probable that, as early as tomorrow, there will be a catastrophic development of events,” he says, and he says the standoff between the two countries has “reached an extreme stage.” U.S. Asia envoy James Kelly is now talking with North Korea in Beijing. Russia was excluded from the meetings, but Losyukov says Russia “does not feel left out or hurt.” President Vladimir Putin has met with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il three times over the past two years.

The U.S. victory in Iraq led to the North Korean talks. ”Everyone sees a new reality, and they’re figuring out how to best adjust to it,” says Middle East expert Dennis Ross. ”Even if it’s just maneuvering, it shows they are prepared to look differently at how things should be done.”

The standoff between the U.S. and Korea began last October, when North Korea revealed a secret nuclear-enrichment program. It withdrew from the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began trying to produce nuclear weapons material. North Korea’s change of mind is due not only to the war, but to the Chinese threat in February cut off oil deliveries. North Korea can’t even grow enough food to feed its population and can’t survive without Chinese support.

When current events are confusing, remember this: the people who are really pulling the strings are hiding behind the scenes.

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