Unlike the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, policy toward North Korea, even following the revelation of a clandestine North Korea nuclear weapons program in October 2002, has been marked by diplomatic efforts.
In December 2002, Spanish troops boarded and detained a shipment of Scud missiles from North Korea destined for Yemen, at the United States' request. After two days, the United States released the ship to continue its shipment to Yemen. This further strained the relationship between the US and North Korea, with North Korea characterizing the boarding an "act of piracy."
On April 16, 2003, the Bush administration announced that the United States, People's Republic of China, and North Korea would meet in Beijing from April 23 to April 24, 2003 to discuss North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program. The United States had refused bilateral discussions with North Korea since October 2002, insisting on multinational talks. The United States was to be represented by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.