The Asian cold war con­flict orig­i­nally esca­lated from two dia­met­ri­cally opposed ide­ologies. A division between the com­munist north and the demo­c­ratic south primed the country for civil war. As casu­alties eclipsed million after million and up to 30 percent of the north’s pop­u­lation was slaugh­tered, a pro­foundly deep anti-American sen­timent fes­tered. No, this isn’t Vietnam: it’s North Korea.

The his­torical context of any foreign policy issue is critical. Grasping the extent to which the Korean war still plays a vital role in North Korea’s foreign policy to this day is crucial to under­standing their con­cerns. It doesn’t help that the Korean war — dubbed the “For­gotten War” for good reason — has largely lapsed from the United States’ his­torical record. For context, with an aston­ish­ingly similar pop­u­lation size, about six times as many North Koreans were killed in the Korean War than in the Con­fed­eracy during our civil war — over 2 million people. Though the southern American states have largely for­given, North Koreans haven’t for­gotten the con­flict as easily.

The Korean war, along with the mil­lions of civilian deaths for which the United States is largely respon­sible, has created a cliché but rel­evant attitude of anti-Amer­i­canism. State news often attacks U.S. impe­ri­alism and dom­i­nance worldwide.

This per­spective has cul­mi­nated in a policy labeled ‘deter­rence’ — that is, an exclu­sively defensive effort to resist U.S. influence. After assuming this vantage point, North Korean foreign policy is not only coherent, cal­cu­lable, and jus­tified, but most impor­tantly, it emerges with precedent.

World War II delivered a gift to many smaller coun­tries employing a deter­rence strategy against the United States: the nuclear weapon.

Former Sec­retary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the effec­tiveness of deter­rence in a 2001 memo. “Uni­ver­sally available WMD tech­nologies can be used to create ‘asym­metric’ responses that cannot defeat our forces, but can deny access to critical areas in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.” He con­tinued, explaining that “‘asym­metric’ approaches can limit our ability to apply mil­itary power.”

Current Director of National Intel­li­gence Dan Coats wrote in a 2008 op-ed that “An Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons capa­bility would be strate­gi­cally untenable,” citing its increased capacity for deter­rence if Iran became a nuclear power. Rumsfeld and Coats both outline the tac­tical perks for smaller coun­tries that prompt them to acquire some sort of WMD.

One only needs to look to North Korea itself to under­stand their angle. After a nuclear test in January 2016, North Korea state media specif­i­cally invoked Iraq and Libya as his­torical ratio­nal­iza­tions for their con­sistent pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

“The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foun­da­tions for nuclear devel­opment and giving up nuclear pro­grams of their own accord,” Korean Central News Agency, the official state media, said. Once the two coun­tries aban­doned their WMDs or nuclear pro­grams, KCNA asserts, the United States swiftly admin­is­tered regime change. Fol­lowing the logic, North Korea believes the same prin­ciple applies to them, but this time there won’t be another victim of U.S. regime change.

Lack of context from the media isn’t helping either. The 83 U.S. mil­itary bases and 28,500 troops in South Korea ought to aggravate its northern coun­terpart alone, but the con­tin­u­ation of joint U.S. and South Korean mil­itary exer­cises along the demil­i­ta­rized zone pro­vokes the dic­ta­torial nation. U.S. and South Korean mil­itary bombers fly across the Korean peninsula, threat­ening to turn north at any time and com­mence a bombing cam­paign. Often, North Korean missile tests and ‘threats’ occur as a direct result of U.S. aggression, but news media outlets fail to mention it.

Amid this turmoil, North Korea still pursues a peaceful option. North Korea reg­u­larly offers the U.S. and South Korea a pro­posal involving a ces­sation of their nuclear program in return for ending mil­itary oper­a­tions along their border. The Tele­graph reported on March 9 that “Wash­ington has rejected China’s pro­posal that North Korea could halt its nuclear weapons program if the U.S. and South Korea suspend mil­itary activ­ities in the region.”

It’s not just Trump either. The Guardian reported Obama saying on April 24, 2016 that “he does not believe North Korea is sincere in its offer to halt nuclear tests if the U.S. sus­pends mil­itary exer­cises with South Korea.” These diplo­matic efforts seri­ously undermine the nar­rative that Kim Jong Un is a madman aspiring to oblit­erate the United States.

Con­sid­ering all of the inter­na­tional sanc­tions placed on North Korea, their failed attempts at indus­tri­al­ization and fre­quent famines aren’t sur­prising. It’s aston­ishing, though, that they still seek to work with the United States. Amer­icans, espe­cially those in control of the mil­itary, should aim to com­prehend North Korean con­cerns instead of dis­missing it as a crazy, power-hungry regime. They should take the per­fectly sane, rational, and pre­dictable Kim seri­ously.