Academics in the United States who met secretly with North Korean premier Kim Jong Il's seven emissaries on the sidelines of official talks say the dramatic shifts in the country's position can be attributed to Pyongyang's deep desire for normal relations with the United States.
One month, North Korea vows to "mercilessly destroy" the US, should it invade. The next month, it dispatches diplomats to America for historic talks on disarmament and establishing diplomatic ties.
"What they want is normalization with the United States and the possibility of developing a strategic relationship with the US," said John Lewis, a Stanford University professor who attended the meetings at a hotel in Saratoga, south of San Francisco. But, Lewis said, "They have great doubts about us."
"They are quite unsure, very unsure, if the shift in Washington (toward an agreement) is a policy shift that is tactical or is strategic," or whether it represents a long-term commitment by the US government, he said.