Biden administration to pursue 'practical' North Korea nuclear diplomacy

Ruben Fields
May 2, 2021

Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear weapons program have been stalled since a series of summits between Biden's predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to result in a deal. But Psaki's suggestion that the administration won't rely on "strategic patience" in its approach suggests that Biden may be shifting toward a more middle-ground approach between that of Obama and Trump's deeply personal effort to persuade Kim to denuclearize for sanctions relief.

U.S. policy will see "a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy" with North Korea, she said.

"We consulted closely with outside experts and our predecessors from several previous administrations and our way forward draws from their lessons learned and shared", Psaki said.

The anti-leafleting legislation was passed in December in Parliament, where lawmakers supporting President Moon Jae-in's engagement policy on North Korea hold a three-fifths supermajority.

The White House said Friday that its goal remains "the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".

A former senior US official said the most practical way forward, and one that the Biden administration is inclined toward, is a phased denuclearization, in which positive North Korean actions would be met with eased sanctions at each step.

Vice President Joe Biden looks through binoculars to see North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette during a tour of the DMZ in 2013
Vice President Joe Biden looks through binoculars to see North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette during a tour of the DMZ in 2013 Credit Reuters

The law was fiercely debated during a video conference hearing called by US lawmakers this month, where critics denounced it as an attack on democratic freedoms and efforts to break North Korea's information blockade.

The Biden administration is expected to be focused less on developing rapport with Kim and more on consulting with Japan and South Korea, both of which had looked askance at Trump's attempts to cultivate Kim as a friend or elevate him to the level of an worldwide statesman.

Some critics in South Korea expressed displeasure over the hearing, saying it might unduly affect the government's decision-making process on policies toward the North.

Biden administration officials have been consulting with Trump administration officials who took part in the Singapore talks between Kim and Trump in June 2018 as well as a second meeting in February 2019. Those tests were not prohibited under United Nations sanctions.

On Sunday, Kim's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, slammed South Korea over recent anti-Pyongyang leaflets that were sent by balloons across the border by a group of defectors in the South.

"What I really think is extremely alarming is a retreat by the South Korean government from its longstanding commitment to human rights vis-à-vis North Korea and China, ostensibly in the cause of fostering better relations or achieving nuclear nonproliferation", Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said during the hearing. Biden was briefed on the plan last week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the paper reported.

India is going through very bad situation, says Dr Anthony Fauci
Arch-foe Pakistan offered medical equipment and supplies after Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted prayers for a "speedy recovery". In Delhi, there have been reports of overwhelmed hospital.

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