Bringing North Korea into the fold

PRESIDENT Clinton used D-Day to point to the dangers of nuclear proliferation. He was not being irrelevant. One of the lessons of D-Day is that if you do not stand up to a tyrant at an early stage - as the Western powers should have done in the '30s - the price of doing so later can be very high.

North Korea, which is now edging to the top of Washington's agenda, poses a seemingly much smaller but in many ways more awkward challenge than Hitler....

If they [world leaders] do nothing, North Korea will build its [nuclear] bomb and give the green light to others to follow, thereby destroying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But if they confront it, they may drive it into a corner and tempt it to react irrationally, with the added disadvantage that sanctions would have little effect on its poor and relatively self-sufficient economy.

Carrots and sticks have already been tried, but there is no obvious alternative to looking for a more effective combination of the two. Neither walking away nor all-out confrontation seems to offer better options. The ultimate aim must be to persuade North Korea that it would be better off as a normal member of the international community. As Mr. Clinton has said: ``We want them to become a part of our world.'' The dangerous part is getting them there.

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