Once upon a time, all of North Korea's plutonium laden, spent fuel rods were safely locked away under IAEA seal . That was negotiated under the "Agreed Framework" during the Clinton administration. The tradeoff was that we would help them build light-water reactors for power, which would be quite unsuitable for clandestine weapons programs.
Upon taking office, Bush administration immediately began to pursue a policy of confrontation with the North Koreans, culminating in the collapse of the Agreed Framework after we "discovered" that they were attempting to start a secret uranium enrichment project. Keep in mind that a production scale uranium enrichment operation is a huge undertaking which is impossible to hide and takes many years just to ramp up. There was time to negotiate, to attempt to salvage some of the protections of the Clinton era; but no.
The Bush administration immediatley shut down talks, stopped the reactor projects and withdrew aid. The North Koreans predictably removed the seals from their fuel rods, extracted the plutonium and by most estimates, now have at least several nuclear weapons which are likely to work. Good job, Bush administration.
Now, it is 30 days before a US election that the GOP is likely to lose on a national level and the North Koreans have announced that they would be willing to forgo their first nuclear weapons test, but only if the US is willing to "talk"
. This is the October Surprise that Karl Rove promised the GOP faithful last month. Keep in mind that everything is political in this administration. Everything. World safety and stability are not part of the equation for these people.
Will they negotiate with the North Koreans and trumpet success in reaching a new Agreed Framework? Or will they rebuff them with strident rhetoric and egg them on to their test, producing a lovely mushroom cloud to use in GOP campaign ads for the last week before the election?
You know what they'll do.