The much touted nuclear agreement with North Korea is very similar to the one that the Clinton Administration reached about ten years ago. The issue that caused the US to break off the earlier agreement, uranium enrichment, is not mentioned explicitly in the new agreement, but according to the US is captured because the new agreement refers to all North Korean nuclear activities.
What appears to have happened is that sometime after the Clinton agreement and the tantrum by the Bush administration, Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan dropped by North Korea and offered to sell them uranium enrichment technology, because he wanted a little (or a lot of) extra money. The North Koreans thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and jumped at it. It turned out to be somewhat of a once in a lifetime opportunity, because once the US learned what Khan was up to, they got Pakistan to rein him in, although they closed the barn door after the horse had escaped.
When the Bush administration learned that North Korea had gotten access to enrichment technology they threw a hissy fit, which is not very helpful in diplomacy. They managed to:
— cancel the agreement, which provided some restraint on North Korea’s activities,
–provoke North Korea to withdraw from the NPT, and
–get the IAEA inspectors thrown out.
All of which left us less secure and more in the dark about what the DPRK was doing.
Now we have a proposal, in principle, to get us more or less back where we were several years ago. At least this administration has more or less come to its senses. The DPRK probably never will, but it’s better to have one of the parties at the table to be sane. Probably a lot of the progress on the US side been made possible by getting John Bolton out of the State Department, where he managed to sabotage any similar attempt by Colin Powell. Also, I tend to believe the reports that the Chinese threatened to embarrass Bush and blame the US publicly for the failure of the negotiations if we didn’t sign on.