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LOS ANGELES — You will never get anything of significance done with North Korea unless you go right to the top. The essence of its political culture is a feral fusion of Asian family values (“father knows best”) with rigid communist hierarchy.

At international conferences, midlevel North Korean operatives are usually too scared to negotiate anything other than the hotel bar bill. They fear deviating even one inch from the party line. That line — in tone and in content — is set by one to three or four big tunas in Pyongyang.

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