All one needs to be able to do to understand the strategic situation with respect to North Korea is remember just a little history. That, and a bit of pattern recognition will clarify everything.
John Podhoretz has this ability and notes that while Kim Jong-Il is a monster, he is not a lunatic.
A Putrid Payoff
Since 1985, North Korea has used its reputation for insanity to manipulate not only the United States, but even the Evil Empire to its West. In that year, the Soviet Union agreed to provide the North Koreans with light nuclear reactors if the Norks agreed to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.We know how that whole "Agreed Framework" thing worked.
Showing stunning sangfroid against the ruthless bunch in Moscow, Kim's father signed the treaty and then simply refused to abide by any of its provisions. He spent five years refusing to allow a single inspector into the country, and when he did finally allow their entry in 1990, he deceived them and lied to them.
And how did North Korea pay for its recalcitrance? It didn't. In 1991, the United States agreed to remove its short-range nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula in exchange for a promise from North Korea (and South Korea) not to do anything nuclear.
Our weapons were pulled. The South abided by its word. The North Koreans continued to develop their nuclear program regardless - until 1993, when Kim the Elder announced his nation was pulling out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why? Because, in complete contravention of its deal with the Soviets in 1985 and its deal with us and South Korea in 1991, it had built a nuclear reaction in Yongbyon.
At this point the Clinton administration took over, and at the end of 1994 announced its bribe - the so-called "Agreed Framework."
Read the whole piece for the rest of the history.
UPDATE: Just for your amusement, here is a propaganda video about Kim.