"We must deal with North Korea as it is, not as we wish it to be."

That was the key phrase in the preface of a report handed to the Japanese, South Korean and American leaders after former U.S. defense chief William Perry's unprecedented 1999 visit to Pyongyang.

Nearly 18 years later, those words still ring true for Perry. The former defense secretary, who served under President Bill Clinton from 1994-1997, has become one of the most visible faces of a growing movement urging Washington, as well as other key nations, to set realistic goals and again engage Pyongyang diplomatically over its burgeoning nuclear and weapons programs.