IN OTHER WORDS: Engage North

There is little chance that the sanctions on North Korea approved by the UN Security Council last Saturday can compel the so-called hermit kingdom to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

But there is too great a chance that the resolution’s call for UN member states to conduct “inspection of cargo to and from” North Korea will lead to firefights at sea. This is why North Korea has warned that “the resolution cannot be construed otherwise than as a declaration of war.” It is also why Chinese ambassador to the UN has said his country will not inspect cargo from North Korea.

China’s solution to its North Korean problem is to avoid, in the short term, any destabilising confrontation with Pyongyang while encouraging the North to emulate China’s formula of free-market reforms combined with continued communist rule. But the world’s North Korea problem is the specter of Pyongyang peddling a nuclear device to the highest bidder.

The Chinese have failed abjectly at changing North Korea’s behaviour. Only the US can grant the package of energy supplies, economic assistance, and security assurances that the North consistently demands as the price for divesting itself of its nuclear programme. Instead of imposing risky and futile sanctions, President Bush ought to be trying to cut that deal. — The Boston Globe