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Claps and Clapton in North Korea

Inviting Western musicians won't help the regime in its latest try at nuclear blackmail.

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By the sound of it, North Korea is coming in from the cold – the cold reality of being a threat. It hosted the New York Philharmonic this week and invited Eric Clapton to play Pyongyang. Now if only it would also sing the song it promised Oct. 3 and reveal its atomic arsenal.

The regime of Kim Jong Il missed a Dec. 31 deadline to make a full and verifiable declaration of its nuclear programs. While it has partly dismantled the plutonium processing plant at Yongbyon – which created enough fissile material for six to 12 nuclear warheads – that work has greatly slowed. North Korea appears to be returning to brinkmanship diplomacy, or extracting food, oil, and money for limited concessions in its nuclear blackmail.

The delay only makes more remote Bush's plan to leave his successor with a North Korea on its way to nuclear disarmament.

Once again, though, US diplomats tried this week to persuade China to arm-twist its small neighbor into living up to its agreements, even as the head of US intelligence suggested the North is still enriching uranium in a secret facility.

And speculation remains that North Korea had been aiding Syria in building a nuclear plant – which Israeli jets destroyed in September – and might still share nuclear know-how and even bombs with other nations or terrorist groups. In 2006, it tested a crude atomic weapon and a ballistic missile, crossing a threshold in nuclear proliferation.

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