North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called on his country to prepare “for both dialogue and confrontation” with the United States, state media reported on Friday, but more for the confrontation.
The remarks come after months Kim ignored Washington’s attempts to revive stalled nuclear negotiations, and are the first directed at President Joe Biden since the White House unveiled its new policy on how to deal with it. the threat of Pyongyang.
At a ruling party meeting Thursday, Kim gave a “detailed analysis” of Biden’s policies in North Korea, the state-controlled KCNA news agency reported. He said Kim “stressed the need to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to fully prepare for the confrontation.”
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This two-track approach, combining diplomacy and militarist threats, has already been used by Kim.
But the significance of the remarks may not lie in their familiar content but rather in their timing, according to Cristina Varriale, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.
“For a few months now, the DPRK has been relatively silent on the direction of its foreign policy, especially as it relates to the United States – but these comments break that silence,” Varriale said, using the country’s official name. , Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Perhaps that’s because Kim has now “seen the new Biden administration take hold” and start sketching out his approach, Varriale added. “North Korea is now able and willing to resume making its position known.”
Kim’s comments also come days before a visit to South Korea by Sung Kim, the top US official on North Korea. He will hold a meeting with South Korean and Japanese officials in Seoul on Saturday, a trip that underscores the importance of these alliances, according to the State Department.
In April, the White House completed its “policy review” on North Korea. Like previous administrations, it says it aims “for the complete denuclearization” of North Korea.
But officials in the Biden administration have made it clear that the approach will be different from the “big deal” pursued by former President Donald Trump and the “strategic patience” favored by former President Barack Obama – which did not both succeeded in doing so for a long time. progress over time.
Trump held a series of summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019, but these collapsed after Trump rejected Kim’s calls for extended sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of his nuclear capacity.
Most experts say it’s unthinkable that North Korea will ever give up its nuclear arsenal while the authoritarian Kim Dynasty is still in power. Watchdogs say its stockpile could number more than 60 warheads, coupled with intercontinental ballistic missiles that some experts believe capable of hitting the Americas.
The ability to launch a devastating counterattack on American cities is viewed by North Korea as the ultimate insurance policy against any American attempt to overthrow the Kim regime.
But experts believe more modest progress might be possible, such as some sort of freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program.
It also seems increasingly clear that North Korea needs to talk. The triple whammy of international sanctions, Covid-19 and flooding has shrunk the economy of the already isolated and impoverished country and caused widespread food shortages.
On Tuesday, in another appearance at the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, Kim warned of potential food shortages, saying North Korea’s food situation “is now getting tense.” He urged officials to find ways to boost agricultural production.
When it comes to human rights, Biden’s approach falls far short of Trump’s. While Trump said he had “fallen in love” with Kim, Biden called him a “murderous dictator” and a “thug.”
The North Korean leader is considered by international observers to be one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, running a deeply repressive police state that controls nearly all aspects of public and private life.
In 2014, a United Nations panel declared that Kim’s North Korea was guilty of committing atrocities against its own people that were “eerily similar” to those of Nazi Germany.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.