This is how Washington does business, and it hasn't changed since the Seventh Cavalry wiped out 150 men, women and children at Wounded Knee more than century ago. The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge got the same basic treatment as the North Koreans, or the Vietnamese, or the Nicaraguans, or the Iraqis and on and on and on and on. Anyone else who gets in Uncle Sam's way, winds up in a world of hurt. End of story.
The savagery of America's war against the North left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people. Whatever the cost, the North cannot allow a similar scenario to take place in the future. Whatever the cost, they must be prepared to defend themselves. If that means nukes, then so be it. Self preservation is the top priority.
Is there a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust?
Of course there is. The US just needs to start treating the DPRK with respect and follow through on their promises. What promises?
The promise to built the North two light-water reactors to provide heat and light to their people in exchange for an end to its nuclear weapons program. You won't read about this deal in the media because the media is just the propaganda wing of the Pentagon. They have no interest in promoting peaceful solutions. Their stock-in-trade is war, war and more war.
The North wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That's it. Just keep up your end of the goddamn deal. How hard can that be? Here's how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):
""in September 2005, an agreement " reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005"
"This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005".
"North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be 'on the table' for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification -- a very slow process -- was not covered in the 1994 agreements.
"Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the 'temporary' cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime."
("North Korea's consistent message to the U.S.", President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)
Most people think the problem lies with North Korea, but it doesn't. The problem lies with the United States; it's unwillingness to negotiate an end to the war, its unwillingness to provide basic security guarantees to the North, its unwillingness to even sit down with the people who --through Washington's own stubborn ignorance-- are now developing long-range ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting American cities.
How dumb is that?
The Trump team is sticking with a policy that has failed for 63 years and which clearly undermines US national security by putting American citizens directly at risk. AND FOR WHAT?
To preserve the image of "tough guy", to convince people that the US doesn't negotiate with weaker countries, to prove to the world that "whatever the US says, goes"? Is that it? Is image more important than a potential nuclear disaster?
Relations with the North can be normalized, economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. The situation with the North does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that genuinely want peace more than war.