SEOUL: South Korea's "sunshine" policy of coaxing its neighbour to behave better was under a dark cloud after North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Monday, analysts said.
They said the failure of Seoul and its allies to coordinate strategies toward Pyongyang was partly to blame for the shock nuclear test.
"This is precisely what Seoul did not want to see happen," said Peter Beck, Northeast Asia director of the International Crisis Group.
"This is a very serious setback for the sunshine policy."
It would also be very difficult for South Korea to deal sternly with the North without precipitating an even more serious crisis, he said.
He said the government of President Roh Moo-Hyun and his predecessor Kim Dae-Jung, the inventor of the policy of engagement, had had no alternative but to try to engage North Korea by providing material incentives.
"So this is a very delicate time. But because of North Korea's provocative action, for the first time the government will question the two pillars of engagement," he said.
He referred to a joint industrial park in North Korea's Kaesong near the border and to tours of the scenic Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast, which are both major sources of hard currency for the impoverished communist state.
In its first reaction to the nuclear test, South Korea temporarily suspended a scheduled shipment of 4,000 tonnes of cement aid for flood victims in North Korea. It already suspended regular aid shipments after North Korea test-fired seven missiles in July.