65 years of Armistice and the stationing of tens of thousands of American troops in South Korea and Japan have created paranoia in North Korea, the feeling that they will be invaded or attacked at any time and the rhetoric from Trump and his cronies have served to increase that feeling. The North feels that the only deterrent is developing nuclear weapons and seeing what happened to Saddam when he gave up his chemical weapons and Khaddafi when he ended his nuclear program, they will not give up ...si vis pacem, para bellum....to live in paece, prepare for war.
There are some who draw a comparison to the Cuban Missile Crisis ( Oct 16-28, 1962), but that is too far fetched. Yes there is tension; there are hard words spoken on both sides and the media, especially cable news are full of talks of war. There may be war but not on the scale of what could have been, had the " kambshii krizis", not been resolved peacefully. There would have been total destruction.
The Cuban Missile Crisis began with the threat of another American invasion of Cuba ( this after the failure of the Bay of Pigs, April 1961 ( when JFK sanctioned, somewhat half-heartedly, the CIA/ Cuban exiles invasion that failed. Kennedy was blamed for not allowing air support). Fidel Castro at a meeting with the USSRs Nikita Khrushchev ( July 1962) asked for protection and Khrushchev, wanting to get back at the USA for placing missiles in Italy and Turkey, agreed to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Americans learnt of this through satellite photos and demanded that they be removed. Kennedy ( whom Khrushchev thought was weak, after the Berlin Crisis " does not have the courage to stand up to a serious challenge". He told his son, Sergei that Kennedy " would make a fuss, make more fuss and then agree") had a few options... the Chiefs of Staff wanted a full scale invasion to remove Castro; use diplomacy or secretly tell Castro to sever ties or else or use air strike on the sites or mount a blockade or do nothing ( Krushchev, felt that JFK " was indecisive ( Bay of Pigs) , too young, intellectual, not prepared well for decision-making in crisis situation...too intellectual and too weak". JFK had ( unlike Trump) surrounded himself with qualified, experienced advisers and they came through, a blockade was mounted and after 13 days diplomacy prevailed and the situation was defused and MAD...Mutual Assured Destruction was avoided. Russia would dismantle its missiles in Cuba and in return the US promised not to invade Cuba, remove their missiles in Italy and Turkey and lift the military blockade. Khrushchev had once stated that "my vas pokhoronim...we will bury you ", but this time cooler heads prevailed.
Trump is no Kennedy and his UN ambassador Halley is no Adlai Stevenson. Trump is bombastic and erratic and his most of his advisers are unschooled, inexperienced and lack diplomatic skills. Kennedy, for all his youth, was studied, dispassionate, had served in the Pacific war and was a senator and had able, skilled and experienced advisers to whom he listened.
Trump has the same options... do nothing or mount a full scale attack or use secret meetings to get to Kim or use a full blockade or use diplomacy or any combination. He cannot not do nothing ( not in his nature or political suicide given his bombast on the issue). A full scale attack would be devastating, not only on the North but also on the South and Japan and the surrounding areas, causing millions in death and widespread destruction. China has made it known that it will not come to the aid of the North if it starts a war, but that it does not want a nuclear war in the peninsula. Further any actions/sanctions that include a threat to China's economy will be met with retaliation...China and US has a $600 billion plus trade and China can dump its American dollars, creating economic havoc so any blockade has to take China's response into consideration ( this is not tiny Cuba); the only solution is diplomacy backed by economic and military might.
What does Kim want? The end to the Korean war and the threat of American invasion. This can be accomplished by a formal treaty finally ending the war ( there is presently only a truce, an armistice). Security for the country and the Regime is paramount. Development of nuclear weapons is seen as a deterrent and they will not easily give that up. It can be done by bringing Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and the EU and UN and working out an agreement that addresses the concerns of the North and the US and Japan and South Korea and it will not be easy but as Benjamin Franklin advised " the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war".
Kennedy and Khrushchev worked it out. It took 13 days but in the end, war was avoided.
The Winds of War must not become the Hurricane of Mass Destruction.