Are things hopeless at this point? From Slate's Fred Kaplan last week:
At the end of 2002, the North Koreans resumed production of plutonium (which they'd halted since signing an accord with Clinton in 1994). But they also announced that they were unilaterally extending the moratorium on missile testing.The Bush administration needs to take his blinders off and start dealing with North Korea --- stat --- before things get even more fucked up.
In March 2005, they called off the moratorium. The Bush administration responded in its customary manner: It did nothing. Now, 15 months later, the North Koreans seem to be preparing a missile test, and President Bush is shocked, shocked.
"North Koreans have made agreements with us in the past, and we expect them to keep their agreements—for example agreements on test launches," Bush said last week in Vienna.
Well, no. The agreement on test launches that the North Koreans made "with us" expired when Bush canceled the missile talks during his first week in office. What the North Koreans are doing now is simply backing out of a unilateral moratorium—and one that they proclaimed they were backing out of more than a year ago. Bush had plenty of time to do something about it, but he didn't want to.
That aside, the prospect of a North Korean ICBM test is genuinely worrisome. Here is an unstable, secretive, monstrously dictatorial regime that has processed enough plutonium to build a half-dozen nuclear weapons. The world would become a scarier place if this regime possessed missiles that could fire these weapons at targets across the world, including the West Coast of the United States.