Still, Bolton is correct in that for North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons it would require a fundamental change in its founding and governing precepts. Bylaws of North Korea’s all-powerful Workers Party define its purpose as to complete the revolution and “liberate” the South, while those who oppose the Party are by necessity “enemies of the people.”

Besides, North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, had a defining philosophy of Juche, best defined as ultra-patriotic self-reliance. This would seem impossible to reconcile with accepting promises of non-aggression from age-old nemesis the United States. Kim Jong Il — son of Kim Il Sung and father to the current Supreme Leader — added his own trademark philosophy of Son’gun, or “military first,” which built on Juche while wrapping in elements Marxism-Leninism, militarism, neo-Confucianism, and realism. In a nutshell: raw power conquers all.

“From that perspective they are the ultimate realists in the traditions of Machiavelli and Hobbes,” Daniel Pinkston, an East Asia expert at Troy University in South Korea, tells TIME. “They have this obsession or fetish of power. Every political outcome is determined by power and power asymmetries.”