What does Kim Jong Un want from the Biden administration?

What does Kim Jong Un want from the Biden administration?


Pyongyang and Washington have expressed different interpretations of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s latest remarks on the possibility of negotiations with the United States.

After Kim Jong Un asked North Korea to prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the new US administration last week, the two sides made various comments and explanations.

US President Joe Biden and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo: AP, KCNA

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, on June 21, called Kim Jong Un’s comments an “interesting signal”, and reiterated Washington’s willingness to resume negotiations with Pyongyang on nuclear problem.

The next day, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, as saying Washington seemed to have “false expectations” about Kim Jong Un’s comments. North Korea’s foreign minister also made comments in a separate statement, saying Pyongyang was not even considering resumption of talks with Washington.

To convince North Korea to return to the negotiating table, in May, US President Joe Biden appointed a new special envoy for North Korea. The character chosen is Sung Kim, a Korean-American, in charge of setting the working-level negotiating agenda with North Korea for the Donald Trump – Kim Jong Un summit.

Sung Kim went to Seoul this week to meet his Korean and Japanese colleagues. Local media reported that he was fluent in Korean and this would make it easier for him to communicate with the North Korean side without the need for an interpreter.

The special envoy said he informed during the meeting in Seoul that Washington supports inter-Korean cooperation and that he is ready to meet with his North Korean counterparts “anytime, anywhere, without preconditions.” .

Washington and Seoul also agreed to suspend a coalition working group as a conciliatory move. The working group is condemned by North Korea and seen by many progressives in South Korea as an obstacle to inter-Korean exchanges.

After the US and North Korea failed to reach an agreement at the summit two years ago, both sides took a tough stance, with one demanding that the other first meet their own conditions. The United States wants North Korea to take concrete steps to denuclearize before easing sanctions, while Pyongyang wants sanctions relief before proceeding to dismantle its nuclear stockpile.

Even now, the US has a new administration, but the Kim Jong Un regime has not yet made any move to find channels to resume negotiations.

South Korea has expressed a consistent stance that it is willing to assist and mediate the US-North Korea talks. However, Pyongyang does not appear to be interested in South Korea’s efforts, as President Moon Jae In is only a few months away from the end of his term.

Speaking to The Diplomat, Professor Leif-Eric Easley of Ewha University in Seoul, said that Kim Yo Yong’s latest statement “basically repelled US efforts to kick the diplomatic ball about Pyongyang’s courtyard.” He described the move of the North Korean leader’s sister as a splash of cold water on hopes of re-contact.

South Korea has sought to resume dialogue with North Korea by offering inter-Korean cooperation and the possibility of distributing a Covid-19 vaccine to the northern country. Even after North Korea blew up the Kaesong joint liaison office, which was once a symbol of inter-Korean communication, the Moon administration was determined to pursue “dialogue”, citing it as the only way to building a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

However, Pyongyang rejected Seoul’s proposal.

“The Kim Jong Un regime wants to see bigger concessions from Washington before it returns to negotiations. In the meantime, it wants to sow discord within South Korean politics over upcoming military exercises between the country and America,” said Professor Easley.

South Korea and the United States have scaled back joint military exercises over the past few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also because of the harsh response from North Korea. However, what the Kim Jong Un regime wants is for the two countries to completely stop their military exercises and withdraw all 28,500 US troops from South Korea.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, said Seoul and Washington are following in the footsteps of former President Donald Trump’s administration and pursuing the hope of bilateral dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, even those approaches have failed.

According to him, the US needs to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table by promoting quadrilateral talks on its nuclear program, and bringing China and South Korea to the table.

Thanh Hao

Kim Jong Un's sister says the US deciphered the wrong signal from North Korea

Kim Jong Un’s sister says the US deciphered the wrong signal from North Korea

The North Korean leader’s sister said that the US’s expectation of the talks would make the country “fall into greater disappointment”.

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