From Pyongyang’s standpoint, the storyline of its engagement with the U.S. looks something like this:
Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, North Korea made it clear it was prepared to give the new U.S. administration time to review the policy and come up with something better than President Obama’s. The only wrinkle was that if the U.S. went full-steam ahead with its annual joint exercises with South Korea (especially if that were accompanied by more talk of “decapitation” and more flights of strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula), the North would react strongly.
In short, the U.S. did, and the North reacted.
Behind-the-scenes contacts went up and down, but couldn’t get traction. In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paraded new missiles as a warning, to no effect. The regime launched the new systems, one after another. Still, Washington’s approach didn’t change.