Is North Korea really ready to take the plunge toward better relations with the United States and Japan, or is it a case of deja vu all over again, to quote the immortal New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra? Is the Berlin breakthrough agreeing “in principle” to a high-level North Korean visit to Washington something to celebrate or be cautious about? In short, what are better relations likely to bring in terms of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and North-South dialogue? Can a rogue state and the world’s only superpower, an isolated Stalinist state and a vibrant, transparently democratic market economy, ever be expected to have meaningful relations?

The prospective dispatch of Kang Suk Ju to Washington cannot be expected to provide immediate answers to these questions. After all, it took years for Washington and Beijing to become civil with each other, and even today relations are strained.

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