In recent years North Korea primarily gained time: It developed its nuclear program, conducted a nuclear experiment, tested missiles that can reach the US, and obtained enough plutonium to build 12 nuclear bombs. And it paid off: The world's only superpower ultimately folded.
Washington is paying with dollars and oil for the somewhat vague assurance of North Korea's suspended nuclear activity.
A box of peanuts – this is what Kim Jung-il would have received from the US if it hadn't possessed the nuclear know-how and ability to pose a threat. Thus, for years he built one of the largest and most modern armies in the world and against all odds succeeded in turning a dark, poor, hunger stricken nation into a member of the prestigious nuclear club. Its ostentatious and threatening muscle-flexing gained it international attention.
Bush entered the White House and ordered to stop nuclear talks. Kim was offended and insisted on holding direct negotiations with the US. Washington refused, but in time softened its stance. Following the nuclear test it began serious dialogue. If this agreement is implemented, it will constitute an isolated achievement for Bush and for American foreign policies, except perhaps for bringing about Libya's disarming of weapons of mass destruction.
After the failure in Iraq, its inability to capture Osama bin Laden, and its futility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bush is presenting a "significant milestone." In order to achieve it he will be forced to pay a heavy sum. Even his ally, John Bolton, said Tuesday that he paid far too much for much too little.
Not only talking, also paying
His eagerness to achieve something made Bush soften his stance and fold. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can justifiably take pride in her personal victory, after long urging him to reach an agreement. The Americans could have sealed the deal with North Korea long ago; however, Bush declared that he would not engage in talks with the "axis of evil." Now, he is not only talking but also paying.
For years Teheran has been studying North Korea's conduct. It is not at all certain that the Iranians will draw the conclusions Rice wishes to convey. Teheran will continue with its uranium enrichment program, and when it enters the nuclear club, it will find the time to engage in talks with Washington.
Bush will inevitably come to the Iranians not only bearing a smile, but also a large sack of dollars.