Unlike the policy of the previous administrations, the new American policy does not aim at a regime change in North Korea! This new approach in the American policy towards North Korean regime has a historical background that needs elaboration.
After the fall of USSR, the dictators and regimes installed and protected by the USSR to serve its interest during the cold war era were left stranded, and their fate looked uncertain.
Both Bush senior and Clinton administrations had a very clear policy towards these communist regimes and dictators.
Post USSR American policy was mainly aimed at supplanting these dictators and regimes--dotted on the world map-- with democratic system and values. Initially the efforts of both Bush Senior and Clinton administrations were focused in the East Europe where the dictators like Chaussesco and Melasevic were removed from the power and the countries were given a democratic system. A better system of governance!
It was easy for the Clinton administration to convince the people living under dictatorships in East Europe, for the people clearly knew that the nations who went with the Western powers had better economic, social, and political life conditions as compared to the countries in the communist world.
The dictators there clearly knew that the US was not going to tolerate any sort of antidemocratic ideology in the region, and the only chance they had to continue their dictatorial rule was they sought help from Russia. Russia, however, was not in a position to help those regimes, and hence, those dictators generally fell before the US power.
In the George Bush era, the focus of the US policy shifted towards the Middle East and the Islamic World. In the Islamic world there were two types of dictators and regimes: those who were supported by the West, and those by the USSR. Those who were supported by the USSR included Saddam, Gaddafi, Hafizul Assad, and the Iranian regime. Though the Iranian regime wasn't installed by the USSR, it was anti West, and hence was on the US list of the regimes to be removed. However, during the Bush era certain incidents and factors rendered the decision making complex.
During the Bush era the situation complicated due to two factors! First of all, the first Gulf war created an antipathy against the West in certain extremist quarters of the Muslim society! A mutiny against the US was initiated by the once pro American Jihadists who participated in the war against the USSR! This mutiny in the Islamic world was led by the rogue organizations like Al Qaeda, and its aim was to remove the Western influence from the Islamic world!
This mutiny led to a terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001! This accidentally changed the US policy, and instead of pursuing regime changes in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, the US went after the Taliban regime in Afghanistan! The Taliban regime was installed by the Pro West Jihadists powers, supported by the front line allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan!
Hence, President Bush, instead of going after the Bathist-Pro-Soviet dictators, went after the Taliban regime, and overthrew it with no effort! After the US forces had removed the Taliban regime, President Bush turned his attention towards Iraq, and removed Saddam from Power!
The removal of Saddam opened up a pandora's box of problems for the US strategists, for the sectarian and ethnic conflicts in the region flared up, and the transition from Saddam's dictatorship towards a robust democratic system couldn't be made. Dictatorship couldn't be supplanted with an effective democracy in the post Saddam Iraq, like it was in the post USSR East Europe. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the reconstruction efforts were thwarted, for on the one hand the allies of the US like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan didn't approve the US relationship with the Shias and the non Pashtun minority, and on the other the newly established democratic government couldn't handle the menace of corruption and lawlessness!
Both Iraq and and Afghanistan turned into great failures for the US policy makers who were thinking about these Middle Eastern and Islamic countries in terms of their successes in the East Europe! In East Europe, once the dictators were removed, the democratic values were lucidly established! However in Afghanistan and Iraq ethnic and Sectarian divides continued and haunted the US policy makers!
President Bush and his policy makers had no answer to these newly emerging problems, and they just overlooked such problems!
The second problem emerged at home!In the 80's the strong Western rulers like President Regan, and the British PM Thatcher had in principle accepted the neo liberal philosophy of open market and globalization! The initiated the process of privatization of corporations and services, and worked for the globalization of the world economy.
Furthermore, the leftist Clinton administration took the torch of globalization from the previous administration and established the realm of WTO! However, the WTO regime, globalization, and free market didn't fare well with the White American labor class and backlashed! Empty ghost towns in the US created due to the shift of labor to the third world rendered the white blue collar Americans job less! The hardline leftist thinkers in the US criticized Globalization and free market, for it had harmed the Blue collar Americans' economic interest! Thinkers like Susan George paved the way for a wholesale condemnation of globalization, and provided the blue collar American with an alternative view point.
The situation worsened in the 2008, when the US economy crashed, and sealed the fate of Republican Party for the coming elections. After the economic melt down of the Bush era, a decisive majority turned against the corporate greed and voted for Obama not only in 2008 but also in 2012 elections!
Obama didn't go against globalization, yet he resolved the immediate problems of American economy that emerged in the backdrop of the economic melt down of the Bush era!
In the elections of 2016, Republican party found itself helpless against its own voter who chose Donald as their new president.
I am not going to go into the depths of economic reasons that led to the election of Trump, or the purpose of this article is to explain the US policy in North Korea!
And in order to explain this new policy towed by Secretary Rex Tillerson, I will have to go back to the failures of Obama in the Middle East!
Obama failed in the Middle East! Obama failed to establish democracy and peace in the Middle East like his predecessor George Bush.
Obama continued the efforts to change the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. However, unlike Bush, Obama favored another path that led towards the aim of removing dictators from their rule. That path was the path of political uprising. The political uprising of the middle, the Arab Spring, resulted in many revolutions in the Muslim world and removed dictators like Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak.
Despite the successes of Arab spring certain unacceptable things also resulted from the it. First of all, the countries from where the dictators were removed never returned to normalcy, and the political tumoil worsened into ethnic and sectarian conflicts. Second, in the case of Egypt, an orthodox Islamist regime came into power, and that regime was not acceptable to any of the major player in the region including Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US itself. A counter revolution occurred in Egypt and an army general Al Sisi removed Mursi from power, and Egypt went back to dictatorial rule.
In Libya and Syria extremist organizations came into prominence. The worst of these extremist organization was ISIS. ISIS appeared on the scene due to the deadly sectarian conflict in Iraq and Syria. ISIS not only threatened the peace in the Middle East, it also carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Europe and America. Arab Spring was largely considered a failure for it didn't produce the desired outcomes.
These outcomes of the Arab Spring allowed a few in the US to press a review of the anti-dictator, or anti-strongman policy of the US. President Donald Trump, commenting on the Middle East situation during his presidential campaign expressed his wish to back dictators and strongmen in troubled Middle Eastern countries.
Removal of the strongmen from the scene, according to President Trump's vision, resulted in the creation of ISIS and Sectarian violence. For him the strong man of the Middle East like Saddam, Gaddafi, and Bashar Ul Assad were successful in establishing peace and were lesser evils as compared to ISIS.
The Trump Voter saw the Paris attack, the rising Islamic militancy that was caused by the ethnic and sectarian rifts in the Middle East, as immediate adversaries! Such rifts not only harmed peace in the Islamic World but also in Western Europe and America!
By the time Trump came to power, it was the turn of the South China Sea to receive the tremors of the US policy! While handing Trump the rule of the US, Obama told Trump that North Korea was the next big problem, and there was a Middle Eastern backlog too!
Now for Trump the situation was clear! He had to solve the North Korean , but he was not in favor of regime changes any more!
Hence the policy of the US in North Korea is not of regime change, but to convert the affiliation of Kim Jon Un in favor of the US! He just want Kim Jong Un to change his fidelity from China to the US! That is what the policy of the US is in North Korea! The US wants Kim Jong Un to shift his dependence from CHINA TO THE US!