Robert Bartley in the Wall Street Journal gives brief history of the success of Nonproliferation Treaties with North Korea.
The Reagan administration solved the North Korean nuclear problem for the first time back in 1985, persuading them to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, North Korea said its adherence to the agreements was contingent on the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea.
So in 1991, President George H.W. Bush solved the North Korean nuclear problem a second time, announcing that the U.S. would withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons abroad, including 100 or so in Korea. This may have made military sense because of improved conventional weapons, and allowed the two Koreas to ratify that the problem was solved through a bilateral agreement not to test, store or deploy nuclear weapons.
In 1992, North Korea concluded its agreement with the IAEA, declared seven nuclear sites and some plutonium open for inspection. So the problem was solved, except that the IAEA discovered discrepancies in the report and demanded special inspections of two nuclear waste storage sites. In response, the North Koreans announced their intention to withdraw from the NPT.
So in 1993, the Clinton administration solved the problem a third time, persuading the North Koreans to “suspend” their withdrawal and submit to inspections. However, the CIA estimated that North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear weapons. When IAEA inspectors arrived, the North Koreans refused to allow them to inspect the plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and announced that it was withdrawing from the NPT after all.
So in 1994, former President Jimmy Carter showed up to solve the problem a fourth time, charming the North Koreans into confirming their willingness to freeze nuclear development and hold more talks.
Later that year, Clinton administration negotiators solved the problem a fifth time with the “Agreed Framework.” North Korea agreed to drop proposed nuclear reactors, in exchange for two “light-water” reactors designed by the U.S. and built by an international consortium. Pending their completion, North Korea would get fuel oil shipments.
In 1999, the Clinton administration solved the problem a sixth time by inspecting the Kumchang-ni site, where the U.S. suspected underground nuclear facilities. In exchange for food aid the Koreans allowed inspections, after five months during which spy satellites showed them moving things away. The inspection found no nuclear activity, so the problem was solved again.
The “Agreed Framework” incorporated the brainstorm of installing cameras to monitor the plutonium stored in North Korea. Last December, the Koreans blandly turned off the cameras.
Interestingly, the solution urged by many is for the Bush administration to negotiate still another agreement. I guess for them, the best outcome is not a solution to the problem, but a continuation of the process that has failed before on the vain hope that it will work this time