North Korea unresponsive to behind-the-scenes Biden administration outreach

Tanya Simon
March 16, 2021

Still, despite three in-person meetings and the slew of "beautiful letters" that Donald Trump received from the North Korean leader, the "historic" talks led nowhere - and ultimately left allies South Korea and Japan wondering whether they could count on U.S. protection as Pyongyang repeatedly threatened them in word and deed.

Blinken and Austin's diplomatic junket will address U.S. security commitments to Japan and South Korea, possible approaches to dealing with an increasinglky assertive China, and discussions on the best ways to confront the pressing issues of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear activities.

Kim Yo-jong described the ongoing maneuvers between the South Korean and U.S. forces are "proof of invasion", despite the fact that they are conducted with minimal impact and mostly through computer simulations due to Covid-19.

"It is because the essence and nature of the drills against the compatriots in the north never change despite any change in their forms".

Reuters, citing the officials, claimed the Biden administration used several traditional "behind-the-scenes" avenues to reach out to dictator Kim Jong-un in an attempt to rekindle diplomatic talks, but Pyongyang did not respond to any of them.

But Kim Yo Jong said even the smaller drills are an act of hostility toward the North.

The silence is hardly surprising: The Biden administration is undertaking an internal review of policy toward North Korea, and Pyongyang may want to see what comes out of that process before formulating its own response, while the annual military exercises are always a tense moment.

Many of us in Seoul have been expecting this.

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There was no immediate response from the White House and State Department, or South Korea's government.

Also on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Tokyo, kicking off a two-leg tour to Northeast Asia that will later bring them to Seoul.

Trump used every tricks in the book to denuclearise North Korea, which is facing several global sanctions for its nuclear weapons programmes. Relations between the two Koreas also plummeted after South Korea played the role of a peace-broker between Washington and Pyongyang and the ties between the two neighbors have remained sour ever since the Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, collapsed in February 2019.

The North has long demanded an end to joint military drills between the allies, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion.

Prior to his presidency, state media routinely attacked Biden as a "dotard" and enemy of Pyongyang.

Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy told AFP, "North Korea has judged that the U.S. will not offer enough concessions and so has released this statement ahead of Blinken and Austin's visit to Seoul".

She did not elaborate on what the "biting wind" would constitute, but she indicated that North Korea may abolish its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, saying the ruling Workers' Party organization focused on dialogue with the South "has no reason for its existence". That policy, however, has stalled as the North remained at loggerheads with the US despite entreaties by Moon to return to talks.

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