North Korea’s nuclear weapons test is an irresponsible act and a dangerous development that threatens the safety and stability of the region, our allies Japan and South Korea and the world. China has an opportunity to step forward and increase pressure on North Korea to cease their nuclear program. Stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons program must be a priority for the international community.

In early 2003, I traveled to the Korean Peninsula with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. When I returned I proposed that the United States should engage in discussions with North Korea regarding their nuclear weapons program. I suggested that North Korea agree to freeze their nuclear program and allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors back in to verify their actions and the United States simultaneously agree not to attack North Korea or call for economic sanctions in order for bilateral negotiations to begin.

The Administration chose to pursue six-party talks instead which have so far been unsuccessful in stopping North Korea’s nuclear program. As North Korea heads in this dangerous direction, we must do all we can to keep a dialogue open between North Korea and the international community. I’ve heard the excuse that Kim Jong Il is like an errant child and we shouldn’t encourage his behavior. But errant children typically don’t have nuclear weapons.