In response to the North Korea nuclear text, the Bush administration predictably urges the imposition of sanctions, but the rest of the world is divided on the proper approach to take.
Various writers agree that insecurity(h/t Adam) has led North Korea to conduct the higly provocative act of testing a nuclear weapon.
This article in the Washington Post explores the inter-relationship between the crisis in North Korea and Iran. Definitely recommended reading, as it is impossible to believe that Iran and North Korea have not been watching each other and gauging how we would react in the light of our problems in other parts of the world, Iraq included.
An article in the New York Times highlights the utter failure of our policy on North Korea.
Where to go from here? Selig Harrison of the Center for International Policy says our only choice is to talk to North Korea and that taking the hard-line would be a mistake:
Paradoxical as it may seem, Pyongyang staged the test as a last-ditch effort to jump-start a bilateral dialogue on the normalization of relations that the United States has so far spurned. Over and over, I was told that Pyongyang wants bilateral negotiations to set the stage for implementation of the denuclearization agreement it concluded in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2005, with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.
The sanctions issue has given the initiative to hard-liners in Pyongyang, who can plausibly argue that the sanctions are the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the Bush administration to undercut the Beijing agreement, squeeze the Kim regime and eventually force its collapse.
Jon Wolfsthal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies begs to differ:
The time for negotiations is over. Now it's about containment and deterrence.
Kim Jong Il has entered a new era, one in which his pattern of brinksmanship, instead of extracting aid from his neighbors, risks provoking a nuclear holocaust. It is critical that Washington and other powers make crystal clear the responsibilities that come with North Korea's decision: A nuclear power must not bluff, must not provoke and must not make threats lightly. In contrast to the ambiguous behavior and bellicose rhetoric they've displayed in the past, North Korean leaders must now avoid steps that could lead to miscalculation and unintentional conflict.
I'm going to throw my hat in with Harrison. If in fact you subscribe to the theory that North Korea is acting out of weakness, than it makes entirely more sense to figure out what North Korea wants more than anything, then offer to give it to them if they ditch nuclear weapons, or make things very, very hard if they don't. Sanctions alone won't do the trick. Force certainly will not do the trick (we would not be able to eliminate their nukes before they could use one or two.) Pushing North Korea over into chaos via sanctions or force isn't going to do anyone any good. Our only real choice at this point is to take North Korea seriously, and give them what they want if they give up the nukes.
If that can be construed as "rewarding" bad behavior...well, welcome to the real world. Pakistan and India behaved badly by building nuclear weapons, and their "punishment" was some scolding followed rapidly by normalized relations with the rest of the world. If we had bothered to try and stop them both earlier, we might have suceeded. If we had bothered to stop North Korea earlier, we might have suceeded. We didn't, and now the conclusion of this matter is no longer entirely in our hands.