For example, it should be made clear to China's leaders that if they won't stand in the way of a nuclear North Korea, we won't stand in the way of a nuclear Japan – on the contrary, we will strongly encourage such a development. And perhaps Taiwan, too, might be assisted along this path. Free and democratic countries, we should explain, have the right to deter and defend themselves from dictatorships with hostile intentions and escalating capabilities.
China's leaders also should be informed that Washington will consider what steps might be taken to push the North Korean regime closer to the collapse it so richly deserves. If that happens, Chinese officials will have a huge refugee crisis to cope with, as well as an opportunity to try their hands at “nation-building.”
The 2008 Olympics should be in play. China is hosting the games. They will be less than a smashing success if athletes from the United States and its allies decline to attend.
Lastly, we should remind China that the vibrant economic growth it has experienced in recent years has depended largely on its access to American markets. That, too, will be in jeopardy if China refuses to cooperate. European nations might put principle over profits, too – unlikely but not unimaginable.
On more than one occasion, President Bush has said that the world's worst dictators must not be permitted to acquire the world's most dangerous weapons. On this issue if no other Bush deserves bipartisan support.
It must be demonstrated to China's leaders that Americans are serious about not letting rogue regimes acquire nuclear weapons. Iran's rulers also need to see that there are limits beyond which Americans will not be pushed.
The alternative is for maniacs and tyrants to soon be strutting the world stage waving nuclear weapons at us. Based on Chekhov or just common sense, we should have no illusions about how such dramas end.