WELLS — Most Americans see North Korea as a hostile adversary, a collection of moronic simpletons led by a moronic simpleton, Kim Jong Un. But what do many Americans not know about North Korea? The writings of East Asia historian Bruce Cumings, MIT critic Noam Chomsky and others address that question.

These authorities are not naive about the threat posed by North Korea. Cumings notes he has “no sympathy for the North, which is the author of most of its own troubles, specializes in self-defeating behavior (and) treats like children the masses of its own population.” Still, he and other observers tell us much about North Korea that the mainstream press generally avoids.

For most Americans, the United Nations’ “police action,” led by the United States against North Korea, originated because the North invaded the South on June 25, 1950. Cumings reminds us that this “invasion” was hardly an unprovoked attack, noting that few people “understand that the South also mounted hundreds if not thousands of terrorist attacks on the North.” Additionally, the United States, encamped in South Korea, generally supported these actions.

President Trump now threatens North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” In doing so, Trump reveals his ignorance of the devastation that the United States has previously visited on North Korea. During the Korean War, the U.S. staged aerial attacks that destroyed 80 percent of North Korean cities and claiming the lives of over 5 million people. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay ended the attacks not for humanitarian reasons but because there were no targets left. LeMay then turned to bombing the huge irrigation dams of North Korea, killing still more people and destroying 75 percent of North Korea’s water supply.

How many Americans are aware of what credible individuals have said about the United States’ conduct in the Korean War? After viewing North Korea, Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur told Congress in May 1951: “I have never seen such devastation. … It just curdled my stomach. … After I looked at the wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited.”

Winston Churchill was particularly critical of the United States’ extensive use of a then relatively new weapon in devastating North Korea. Churchill told Washington that when napalm was invented, no one had contemplated “splashing it” all over a civilian population.

Chomsky adds that the destruction of North Korea’s dams by the U.S. was “a major war crime. People were hanged for it at Nuremberg.”

Given this history, what can be the solution to today’s dangerous situation between the United States and North Korea? Interestingly, the United States has already offered North Korea an agreement that would likely still be acceptable to all parties.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton convinced North Korea to end its development of nuclear weapons in exchange for normalized economic and diplomatic relations with the United States. In a good-faith furthering of that agreement, North Korea submitted to limited weapons reductions while the United States canceled scheduled military exercises with South Korea. Because North Korea used its plutonium production plant for energy as well as for nuclear weapons, the Clinton administration agreed to provide the North Koreans with needed fuel oil at least until two light water reactors could be built with U.S. assistance. Light water nuclear reactors do not produce the high-grade plutonium used in nuclear weapons.

The United States, however, did not deliver on these promises. After Republican advances in the 1994 midterm elections, Clinton never pressed Congress for authorization to implement the agreement. North Koreans did not actually shift to full-scale nuclear weapons production until 2002, after President George W. Bush denounced North Korea as a member of the “axis of evil” and refused to negotiate further.

Such a framework can still form the basis for a peaceful agreement. It can work, however, only if the United States is willing to provide a meaningful quid pro quo. In exchange for North Korea’s acceptance of international oversight of its freezing or modifying its nuclear weapons development system, the United States and South Korea must be willing to renounce any future overt or covert actions to undermine the North Korea regime, terminate their threatening joint military exercises and, perhaps, sign a peace treaty finally ending the Korean War.

We already have a workable solution for a North Korea that is surrounded by countries that have invaded or occupied it and seeks to coexist today with the world’s most powerful military still technically at war with it and dangerously poised to invade or use the nuclear option.