This suggests that the North isn’t really preoccupied with fighting and winning a war against South Korea and its American ally. Rather, the name of the game is regime survival. Having witnessed American attacks on Iraq and Libya, the calculation in Pyongyang is that it needs nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against an American-led attack.
Trump can devise a way out of this dead-end. He should contemplate a deal, corresponding to his America First policy, that would allow the United States to reduce its footprint in the region. The contours of a deal could look something like this: a nonaggression pact between Washington and Pyongyang, formal recognition of North Korea as a legitimate state, intrusive inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities under UN auspices, withdrawal of the bulk of American forces from South Korea (while retaining a significant presence in Okinawa), and the stated goal of created a united and neutral Korea.
Much of the language of any agreement could be derived from the language of the 1972 Basic Treaty between West and East Germany. Until then, West Germany had clung to the Hallstein Doctrine, which prescribed that Bonn would not have formal diplomatic relations with any country that recognized East Germany as a legitimate country. Today, America’s stance toward North Korea is as ossified as the Hallstein Doctrine was by the early 1970s. Far from representing a betrayal of German national aspirations, reaching out to East Germany ultimately undermined the regime. Only in isolation could it thrive. Once it was exposed to Western ideas and travelers, the rotten edifice collapsed.