Courtesy Reuters

The recent crisis over North Korea's nuclear program is merely the latest evidence that the global nonproliferation regime, symbolized by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), is inexorably breaking down. Although U.S. concessions may ultimately induce Pyongyang once again to allow international inspections, that will be a meager accomplishment. It will hardly offer reliable guarantees that a regime as secretive and politically opaque as North Korea's cannot evade International Atomic Energy Agency scrutiny while pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Iraq, for one, was certainly able to do so while complying with all IAEA inspection requirements.

North Korea is only one of several states with nuclear ambitions. India and Pakistan have also emerged as threshold aspirants to, if not already full-fledged members of, the once-exclusive global nuclear club. Persistent reports surface of Iranian and Libyan efforts to exploit the political chaos in the former Soviet Union to purchase their own

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  • Ted Galen Carpenter is Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is “A Search for Enemies: America's Alliances after the Cold War.”
  • More By Ted Galen Carpenter