SEOUL – President Biden is on his way to Tokyo from Seoul during his first trip to Asia as president, when a journalist asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Biden’s short answer? “Hello. Duration.”
North Korea is moving forward with its weapons program, which could lead to another missile test along the way. The isolated country lagged behind internally during the epidemic and is now facing its first covid-related public health crisis. However, the possibility of re-engagement with North Korea is still out of reach.
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During his Asia tour, Biden sought to strengthen ties with allies in the region. As for North Korea, it means the United States and South Korea – which has a new conservative leader who is skeptical of its northern neighbor – are hopeful of working more closely to show that they are ready to deal with Kim’s missile threat. They have kept the door open for dialogue with North Korea, but not in a hurry to push for a breakthrough.
For many North Korean observers, the Biden administration’s approach is reminiscent of the Obama-era “strategic patience,” which included waiting for North Korea to change and avoiding steps that could deliberately escalate tensions.
“The Biden administration’s inaction towards North Korea is increasingly seen as so-called ‘Strategic Patience 2.0’ or even a strategic negligence,” said Park One-Gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Eva Women’s University in Seoul. “It is clear that President Biden has little faith in Kim Jong Un.”
During Biden’s first summit meeting with newly elected South Korean President Eun Sook-eol, the two countries agreed to consider expanding joint military exercises in response to the North Korean threat – an activity that has long angered a divided nation. Trump promised to cancel Allied military exercises, calling them “war games” that are “provocative” and “costly.”
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“While in Seoul, Kim’s presidential message to Kim – a simple ‘hello’ – left no room for misinterpretation. Conciseness is the spirit of intelligence, and in Biden’s case, a simple word expresses his feelings for the DPRK leader and his behavior,” the North Korean official said. Suu Kyi, a North Korean expert at Washington’s Rand Corporation, used the abbreviated form.
“It is possible that the administration chose this position as a ‘strategic ambiguity’ to imply to Kim that the United States would not budge on its provocation,” he said. “The ambiguity of understanding what the United States is thinking or considering as an alternative to dealing with North Korea can be frustrating for Kim.”
The messages that Biden sent during his travels ranged from providing coronavirus support to expanding allied military exercises, According to the administration, the President’s approach has shown balance. On Friday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Biden wanted to show how the United States would work with its allies to prevent North Korea and “to make it very clear that we would respond decisively to any threat or aggression.”
But North Korea did not respond directly to Seoul or indirectly to Washington’s offer of assistance. It has not yet responded to Biden’s promise to increase nuclear resistance and has not yet conducted long-range ballistic missile tests that Washington and Seoul predicted could happen during Biden’s visit to Seoul.
Instead, North Korea claimed this week that it was resolving the outbreak of “fever” patients on its own, citing a reduction in the number of suspected Kovid cases.
Meanwhile, North Korea continues to build up its stockpile of nuclear-capable weapons, and insists on the principle of “self-reliance.” Due to this, despite the economic and humanitarian unrest created inside the country, its borders have been closed for more than two years. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
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Despite the adverse situation in the country, including the coronavirus crisis, Kim is unlikely to change course on his military pursuits, says Ryu Hyun-woo, a former North Korean ambassador to Kuwait who left for South Korea in 2019. Ryu says Kim will not accept offers from South Korea and the United States for help, while his top priorities are to advance the arms race and strengthen the country’s nuclear arsenal.
“Kim Jong Un sees nuclear and missile development as a way to enhance internal unity,” Ryu said. This means that he will not turn his back, but will pursue nuclear pursuits in the face of difficult challenges. “