What a difference nine years makes. Then the U.S. was toasting with Kim Jong-il, now it’s vilifying him for shooting a rocket over Japan.

Madeleine Albright, the last U.S. Secretary of State to meet North Korea’s Kim nine years ago, says people thought he was crazy then, but she disagreed. KOREA NORTH USA

Kim is the center of attention again (a place he seems to relish) after North Korea launched its rocket over the weekend, sending world powers scrambling for a response. But the U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on how severe its words should be to scold him.

Turning the clock back, Albright was head of U.S. foreign policy for President Bill Clinton and actually met the North Korean leader. “It’s been nine years since then and so it’s hard to testify to what he is now,” she said on MSNBC.

“But there were people at that stage who thought he was crazy. I didn’t think he was crazy. He was somebody that was a very tough negotiator, and smart, and knowledgeable,” Albright said, adding that he was “totally isolated.”