In this opinion piece, Henry Kissinger suggests the international diplomatic effort to manage North Korea's nuclear arsenal needs to harden, and adopt the elimination of North Korean nuclear weapons as its goal.
The Obama administration entered office determined to give negotiations with North Korea every opportunity. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted that she was seriously considering a visit to Pyongyang. Stephen Bosworth, a distinguished scholar and moderate diplomat, was appointed principal negotiator.
These overtures were vituperatively rejected. Pyongyang refuses to return to the negotiating table and has revoked all its previous concessions. It has restarted the nuclear reprocessing plant it had mothballed and has conducted nuclear weapons and missile tests. It has said the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 no longer applies.
The explanation for this may lie in a domestic struggle for succession to the clearly ailing "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il. North Korea's leaders also seem to have recognized that no matter how conciliatory U.S. diplomacy, its goal of the abandonment of North Korea's nuclear weapons capability cannot be accepted. They apparently have concluded that no degree of political recognition could compensate them for abandoning the signal (and probably sole) achievement of their rule, for which they have obliged their population to accept unprecedented oppression. They may well calculate that weathering a period of international protest is their ticket to emerging as a de facto nuclear power.