Let’s put North Korea into context. It’s an economic basket case with a fruitcake dictator and some plutonium and a few nukes. Kim Jong Il’s nuclear arsenal is classic leverage, which actually does make sense. Leverage for food and fuel and leverage against regime change. It’s what can happen to a charter member of the “axis of evil.”
But here’s the good news. Religion is not part of the equation. North Koreans don’t do suicide bombings or videotaped beheadings. They don’t see a side order of virgins as a suitable enough reward for incinerating and impaling the innocent.
They may be disingenuous or inscrutably weird. But they can, ultimately, be talked to. They have a return address and, for all their plutonium-enrichment work, are militarily vulnerable.
While talk in this case isn’t cheap, it remains pricier than necessary. We still need to establish diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.