What North Korea wants and why it is "mystified" by U.S. strategy

As part of our ongoing series, Issues That Matter, we take a closer look at the growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea with Michael Morell, former acting and deputy director of the CIA, and Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer who traveled to North Korea on assignment for the magazine.

Last month, North Korea launched its first missile in more than two months, revealing the rogue nation's most powerful missile yet and one that, theoretically, could reach the United States.

"The North Koreans right now actually feel like they're in a pretty good place. They've been able to steadily advance the progress of this program to their desired objective," Osnos told "CBS This Morning."

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Their objective, both Osnos and Morell say, is having the capability to put a U.S. city under risk of attack. While they're not quite there yet, they could be soon.

"Their goal is to put off the negotiations long enough so that they're in the best possible position and then get to the table," Osnos said of North Korea's resistance to bilateral talks. "The reality is that North Korea is enveloped in a kind of fog. That's actually the term they use. Kim Jong-il said we should surround ourselves, make ourselves impenetrable to the outside world and to some degree they've succeeded."

Adding to the strained relations, is simply a lack of understanding between the two nations.

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"When I was in Pyongyang and I was with some foreign ministry officials whose job it is, is to read Donald Trump's Twitter feed, listen to his speeches, try to analyze the American government. And what they said was, 'Frankly, we're mystified. We can't figure out if he is, as they put it, irrational or whether he's proceeding down a subtle strategy that's leading them to an objective. So, when we send mixed messages, when we send confusing messages, they're not quite sure what to make of it," Osnos said. 

Morell echoed the idea that mixed messages and threats without follow-through are damaging to any hopes of diplomacy.

"You've lost a tremendous amount of credibility and I think that the language in that respect is dangerous," Morell said.

North Korea and Kim Jon Un's endgame, Osnos said, is to avoid becoming vulnerable to American pressure.

"If you ask people in Pyongyang, really cut through what it is that they're trying to achieve, the thing they return to over and over again, is they want to avoid being Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qaddafi," Osnos said.

In addition to using nuclear capability as a way to secure themselves from attack, Morell added that there is a possibility they want to use them to become more dominant on the Korean Peninsula.  

"Does he want these weapons to try to coerce the United States in South Korea? So in other words, once he has them, will he be more aggressive on the Korean Peninsula? The question is how do you deter that, and that's more difficult," Morell said.