On 19 December 2003, the leader of Libya, Col. Muammar El-Qaddafi, shocked the world by abruptly stating that his country was renouncing its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). What explained this sudden change of heart? Officials of the George W. Bush administration argued that Qaddafi was intimidated by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but most observers believed that the truth was somewhat more prosaic. Libya, they argued, had been won over by a slow, patient campaign of economic sanctions and incentives.
In contrast, efforts by the United States and other nations to influence North Korea with economic carrots and sticks seem to have failed. After years of patient diplomacy, a pact known as the Agreed Framework was negotiated with the North in 1994 by the Clinton administration. It was designed to freeze the North’s WMD programs in return for loosening decades of economic sanctions. The North, however, seemed to violate the agreement by beginning a new nuclear program in secret. Confrontation escalated, Pyongyang returned to reprocessing plutonium, and it is now generally believed that the country possesses a small arsenal of nuclear weapons. Although the Bush administration was able to reach a pact with the North in 2007 that called for a halt to further nuclear development in return for economic incentives, implementation of the accord has stalled. Despite years of economic incentives and punishments, Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have remained more threatening than ever.