Of all the challenges of the post-Cold War era, one appears to have immediately threatening implications: the apparent effort of the North Koreans to develop nuclear weapons. Negotiations to persuade them to stop have been going on for more than six months without success.
North Korea, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, announced last spring that it was considering withdrawing from the pact. It stopped allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities. The United States sought to bargain with North Korea rather than threaten it, because Washington has certain things North Korea appears to want.
The first is diplomatic recognition; the second, economic aid; the third, cancellation of war games between U.S. and South Korean military forces. But North Korea has so far been unwilling to meet America's price: inspection of a key reactor and nuclear fuel-reprocessing plant, which U.S. intelligence insists is the only way to determine whether North Korea is building nuclear weapons.
The latest North Korean offer would allow inspection of other nuclear sites, which the United States and the IAEA insist won't tell them what they need to know. …