The administration's six-party talks, meanwhile, made sense in theory as a way to bring North Korea's most influential neighbors into any deal-making, but the neighbors have proven unreliable. As North Korea has become ever more aggressive, the South has become ever more supine. China is the North's economic lifeline and at any point in the past decade could have helped bring Kim Jong Il to heel. But Beijing fears a North Korean collapse that might send desperate refugees fleeing into China, and prefers a divided Korean peninsula to one that is united, democratic and allied with the United States.
We need to junk the six-party talks and pressure Pyongyang on all fronts, toward the long-term goal of the collapse of its government. All of the North's sources of income are illegal — counterfeiting, WMD trade and narcotics trafficking — and we can crack down on them further. We should refurbish our nuclear deterrent by telling the North Koreans that any use of nuclear weapons will mean the end of their country, and perhaps by rotating nuclear bombers into Japan. Together with the Japanese and Taiwanese, we can implement a strict inspection regime on all North Korean shipping, a necessity since the most dire aspect of the North Korean threat is the possibility it will slip nuclear materials to even more malevolent actors.
In the case of North Korea, we have talked to our enemy, and it only has made him stronger. It's time for action.