When that happens, at least three important facts will be materially different from the last time Lucy got the ball.
First, North Korea’s nukes are an accomplished reality, no longer a possibility to be averted. As appalling as it is to acknowledge this, Kim’s negotiating position is much stronger now. He can aim for a lasting settlement rather than temporary breathing room.
Second, Kim has in neighboring China a model for his own future. His family has always believed that modernization threatens their grip on power, so they sealed it out, making theirs a Hermit Kingdom. But Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier, is attempting to prove that economic liberalization can coexist with political dictatorship. Kim may conclude that he can maintain power without utterly isolating his country.
Third, Kim has on the horizon a prospect for greater security than ever before.