"Although President George W. Bush delivered a stern warning to North Korea over the consequences of its nuclear test, analysts say the US has few options but to rely on its international leverage, which has been severely weakened by the war in Iraq.
Critics say the Bush administration blundered in trying to confront North Korea in late 2002 just as it was committing itself to invading Iraq.
“The Bush administration deserves particular criticism,” said Gary Samore, vice-president of the independent Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “They had unrealistic expectations of what they could achieve through pressure. The US ability to coerce North Korea is quite limited, especially in the middle of a war with Iraq.”
US ambitions to set up a global network of allied states willing to intercept suspect cargo by land, sea and air led to the formation in 2003 of the Proliferation Security Initiative. China has refused to join, however. It would be wary of giving a blanket approval for such interceptions, and analysts in Washington rule out a full naval blockade.
“That’s an act of war that could get out of hand if challenged by North Korea,” Mr Samore commented. “The US is not in a position to start a conflict on the Korean peninsula.”
The crisis over North Korea may also affect the impasse over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The failure of US policy towards Pyongyang had already influenced a shift towards a more pragmatic approach in dealing with Tehran."