There once was a South Korean government official whose job was "to think and act exactly as North Korean leader Kim Jong Il would."

The first thing this man did upon reporting to work in the morning was to read North Korea's Rodong Sinmun (Workers' Newspaper), and then watch the previous evening's recording of North Korean TV. He was expected to speak, think and act like Kim.

The purpose of his playing the role of Kim's "kagemusha" (body double) was to help the South Korean leadership to anticipate the North Korean leader's moves.

In 2000, the man "coached" and rehearsed with then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung prior to that year's North-South summit. The session, as intense as if the two Kims were actually meeting, is chronicled in "Chosen Hanto no Ichiban Nagai Hi" (The longest day on the Korean Peninsula) co-authored by two South Korean researchers.

I do not know if Seoul still has someone like this man. But with a summit coming up in April between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, I believe Seoul now needs to carefully analyze what to anticipate.

According to Seoul, Pyongyang is prepared to discuss denuclearization with Washington, and intends to refrain from nuclear tests and missile launches as long as the dialogue continues.

This is not bad news, even though I find this a bit hard to believe, given Pyongyang's hard-line stance to date.

Diplomatic attempts to remove the North Korean threat have gone on for more than 20 years, which, some people claim, are nothing more than a history of failure by allowing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.

On the other hand, there is the counter-argument that those two decades also presented opportunities for success.

But in either case, I just hope the two Koreas will pursue the path, no matter how narrow, of averting a war.

Winston Churchill famously said while he was British prime minister, "Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions."

Ultimately, Pyongyang must be made to understand--and act accordingly--that its sole option is to abandon its nuclear ambitions. This is the moment of truth for the international community.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 8

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.