Here is a comprehensive analysis of the current status (or limbo) of the US-DPRK relations by Suzy Kim and John Feffer, in Foreign Policy in Focus, highlighting the Bush administration's North Korea policy reversal from confrontation to engagement, the resurgences of hardliners in the US, Japan and South Korea that try to undermine the six nations' attempts at negotiated settlement on nuclear disarmament, the "Syria connection," and the debate over the human rights issue.
"The Bush administration’s approach to North Korea was once quite consistent with its overall foreign policy. There was name-calling, a preference for regime change, and an emphasis on military solutions. Not surprisingly, then, the relationship between the United States and North Korea, like so many other tense stand-offs, deteriorated over the last seven years. The United States accused the third member of the 'axis of evil' of money-laundering, missile sales, and a secret program for the production of nuclear material. For its part, North Korea responded tit for tat at the rhetorical level. And, in October 2006, it upped the ante by exploding a nuclear device. If the United States were not tied up in other military conflicts, and eyeing Iran to boot, a war in Northeast Asia might have been higher on the administration’s to-do list." See the whole text.