In his visit to South Korea, US President Joe Biden did not seem to expect any “love letters” from Kim Jong Un; he couldn’t even get a response to a coronavirus vaccine offer considering the hermit country is hit by its first major covid-19 outbreak.
And during a news conference on Saturday, he didn’t seem particularly eager for a handshake with the North Korean despot.
“That would depend on whether he is sincere and serious,” Biden said when asked if he would be willing to meet with Kim.
The days of glittering summits and other photo ops that defined President Donald Trump’s diplomatic forays with North Korea and elevated Kim appear to be over for now. So are attempts at a grand negotiation, an “all for all” denuclearization deal.
Instead, officials in the Biden administration are focused on what they call a “calibrated, practical approach,” seeking incremental progress toward denuclearization through sustained diplomatic engagements. And Kim, once again isolated on the world stage and unable to hug and smile with a US president, appears poised for a headline-grabbing ICBM test while Biden is in the region.
A year after the Biden administration completed a review of its North Korea policy, Biden’s first trip to South Korea now puts him at the center of the as-yet-untested new strategy.
Even as a possible missile launch while Biden is in the region could heighten tensions, observers have also seen a major coronavirus outbreak in North Korea as offering a potential if not limited diplomatic opening with the US. , at least with South Korea.
Testing Biden’s Response
US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl are greeted by an honor guard as they meet at a state dinner at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, on May 21, 2022.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, has said that the US is “prepared” for the possibility of a North Korean missile launch or nuclear test while Biden is in the region and that therefore the president could adjust the US military posture in the region.
“If anything happens, it will only serve to reinforce and highlight the fact that the United States will be engaged in the Indo-Pacific, and will be a staunch ally, and will stand up and not back down from any act of aggression,” Sullivan told reporters. aboard an Air Force One bound for South Korea.
To date, the president’s strategy has yet to produce a single working meeting with North Korea in the year since the administration completed a review of US policy toward the hermit kingdom, a senior administration official said. , and added that “it has not been for lack”. to try.” And North Korea has also stepped up the pace of its ballistic missile tests, launching 15 this year so far.
“Obviously we are concerned,” the official said of the tests. “But we remain committed to our fundamental approach, which is that we will do what we have to do in terms of security for ourselves, for our allies, for our deployed forces. And at the same time, we will continue to enforce the rules of the Security Council (of Nations) resolutions and urging others and pressuring others to do the same. But we will continue to reach out to the North and make it clear that we seek diplomacy with them. We seek compromise.”
“Unfortunately, so far, I think we have to be honest about it, they haven’t been willing to do it,” the senior official added.
Covid-19 in North Korea could be an opportunity for engagement
Military parade could cause covid-19 outbreak in North Korea 2:43US officials and North Korea experts attributed the country’s lack of diplomatic engagement with the US and other countries in part to the draconian coronavirus lockdown measures North Korea has implemented during the Biden presidency.
But news of North Korea’s first major publicly acknowledged coronavirus outbreak has also sparked some hope of a potential opportunity for de-escalation.
While US officials do not believe the outbreak will hamper North Korea’s ability to conduct a missile test, they have also watched carefully for signs that it might accept South Korean or international help to combat the outbreak.
“The hope is that they are more willing to engage in COVID-related humanitarian assistance and that this could potentially serve as a means of unfreezing a diplomatic track that has been frozen since the failed US-North Korea summit in Hanoi.” said Patricia Kim, David M. Rubenstein Professor Emeritus at the Brookings Institution. “So, I think there is hope there.”
A senior administration official said the United States had previously told North Korea it was willing to engage in discussions about coronavirus relief aid, but had not had any direct contact since the last outbreak. Pyongyang has yet to respond to the new government in Seoul’s offer of coronavirus assistance.
A major shift from Trump’s diplomacy
Trump’s policy toward North Korea reflected the erratic nature of his presidency. Warned by then-President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in 2016 that Pyongyang would present him with his greatest national security threat, Trump took a bellicose approach toward the North and its leader in the early days of his presidency.
From his summer home in New Jersey, Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the provocations continued. He boasted that his “nuclear button” was bigger than Kim’s. And during a speech at the United Nations, he referred to the dictator as “Little Rocket Man,” an insult he devised to reduce his enemy to a caricature.
However, as time went on and, in Trump’s view, as his rhetoric appealed to Kim, politics veered sharply in another direction. After a historic summit in Singapore, the first between a US leader and North Korea, the men exchanged what Trump later called “love letters.” They met again in Hanoi, though those talks fell apart over differences on sanctions relief.
June 30: US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the two meet at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Trump briefly set foot on North Korean territory, becoming the first sitting American leader to set foot in the nation. Shealah Craighead / The White House
The last time Trump visited Seoul as president, he traveled to the Korean demilitarized zone to meet Kim in person, crossing the demarcation line into North Korea.
Biden, for his part, will forgo a visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) altogether, with officials saying he opted for a briefing at Osan Air Base, having toured the DMZ as vice president.
Trump’s efforts appeared to bring about a pause in North Korea’s provocations, with nuclear and missile tests curtailed. Substantially, however, efforts to convince Kim to stop his nuclear program stalled and ultimately produced no progress toward the ultimate goal of denuclearization.
“I think the Biden administration has tried to distinguish its policy with North Korea by arguing that it is not interested in flashy summits or big deals, but instead wants to take a practical and calibrated approach to moving toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea,” Patricia Kim said.“I think the problem, of course, is not so much US policy, but the fact that North Korea seems to have no interest in talking about denuclearization.”
While Trump tried to foster Kim as a personal friend and partner, he displayed skepticism about the need to keep US troops on the Korean peninsula and imposed heavy tariffs on South Korean goods, moves that caused deep anxiety in Seoul and the region in question. on America’s commitment to security.
Biden has taken a much more traditional approach, good news in the countries he will visit this week.
“There is clearly a sigh of relief after Biden came to the region and talked about alliances in a language that the allies understood. They just didn’t understand, they didn’t understand, what Trump had been saying,” said Victor Cha, president of Korea in the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.