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How to Deal With North Korea

Son Mun San, counsellor from North Korea to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discusses the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, Austria, Vienna, January 11, 2003. Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

MIXED MESSAGES

Progress in reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula, never easy, has reached a dangerous impasse. The last six months have witnessed an extraordinary series of events in the region that have profound implications for security and stability throughout Northeast Asia, a region that is home to 100,000 U.S. troops and three of the world's 12 largest economies.

Perhaps the most dramatic of these events was North Korea's December decision to restart its frozen plutonium-based nuclear program at Yongbyon -- including a reprocessing facility that separates plutonium for nuclear weapons from spent reactor fuel. Just as disturbing was the North's stunning public admission two months earlier that it had begun building a new, highly-enriched-uranium (HEU) nuclear program. And then came yet another unsettling development: a growing, sharp division emerged between the United States and the new South Korean government over how to respond.

But recent events have not been entirely

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