There is no echo of the threat repeated so often prior to the Iraq war, no suggestion that if North Korea refuses to disarm, Mr. Bush will lead an alliance to make it disarm. There is no appetite in Asia or in the White House for such a risk, and the North Koreans know that.
Mr. Bush's senior advisers have insisted all along that the Korean challenge requires a very different strategy. They acknowledge that there are no good military options if North Korea chooses to keep making weapons — only the threat of more of the isolation the country has suffered but survived for half a century.
But in private, some officials also acknowledge that America's troubles in Iraq have changed the global politics of nuclear disarmament. For the benefit of this country's allies, they said, Mr. Bush had to come up with a serious offer — even one laden with conditions for full disclosure, full dismantlement and full inspections that they expect North Korea will reject.