While all eyes have been ﬁxed on Iraq and the Middle East during President George Bush’s ﬁrst term, a crisis with potentially disastrous consequences for the world has been looming in Asia. If one version of events is to be believed, it all began when the United States representative – James Kelly – met his North Korean counterparts in the autumn of 2002. According to one highly disputed translation of that encounter, North Korea apparently indicated it might have nuclear weapons. This in turn provoked an American reaction, and Washington began to look for ways of punishing and isolating Pyongyang.
Inevitably the North responded and did so by threatening to withdraw from the Non Proliferation Treaty to which they had been a reluctant party since December 1985. The situation deteriorated further still in January 2003 when the North ﬁnally did withdraw.