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There has been a perception gap between the Bush and Clinton administrations about the true nature of the North Korean regime and the best ways to deal with the regime, and this perception gap has produced divergent policies between the two administrations. Drawing on recent developments in realist literature, however, I argue that an equally important variable to explain U.S. policy is the international situation around the Korean peninsula ‐ offensive or defensive ‐ that each administration perceives. The second nuclear crisis has been strongly influenced by the offensive strategy of the U.S. after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Such an offensive movement has dramatically worsened North Korea's security fears and led to the current nuclear deadlock. Thus, the U.S. needs to resolve the North Korean security dilemma by taking conciliatory measures, and North Korea also needs to engage in cooperative behavior with the U.S. simultaneously.