Biden's N.Korea Policy Sends a Worrying Signal

      May 03, 2021 12:45

      U.S. President Joe Biden has completed a long-awaited review of North Korea policy, which "will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. Last week, Biden said in his first address to Congress that North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs are "serious threats" to American and world security and pledged to deal with them through "diplomacy and stern deterrence."

      Biden understood that his predecessor Donald Trump's engagement with North Korea through summits was a publicity stunt. But at the same time he does not want to be criticized for looking the other way by repeating his former boss Barack Obama's "strategic patience" with the North.

      But "diplomacy and stern deterrence" is in effect the same approach that has gotten the U.S. government nowhere for the last 30 years. The fact that the Biden administration was unable to come up with anything different after a 100-day policy review shows just how complicated the North Korean nuclear question is. As expected, North Korea responded with one of its usual tirades, accusing the U.S. of making a "big blunder" and warning of a "very grave situation." The North is threatening to test launch long and short-range nuclear missiles unless the U.S. eases sanctions or decreases its troop presence in South Korea. Already, the U.S. and South Korea have halted annual joint military exercises to appease North Korea, but to no avail. If the North does not get what it wants, it always resorts to provocation, so close cooperation between the U.S. and its allies is needed more than ever.

      When asked if it had discussed its new North Korea policy with its allies, the White House said Japan's "input" was reflected, but there was no mention of South Korea, which is the immediate target of North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Two months ago, a joint statement issued by the defense ministers of the U.S. and South Korea made no mention of denuclearization, nor of human rights, which Biden supports fervently. In contrast, a joint statement issued by the defense ministers of the U.S. and Japan contained the words "complete denuclearization of North Korea" and referred to Japanese citizens abducted by the North. The Biden administration must have realized that President Moon Jae-in is a lost cause and just wants another publicity stunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. That is why he has been effectively neutralized.

      Biden of course faces more pressing concerns than the antics of a small, mad country on the other side of the world. There are growing calls in Washington to ease sanctions in exchange for a nuclear arms freeze to buy some peace and quiet for a while, since it is too difficult to achieve complete denuclearization. If Biden is thinking about that option, which would effectively make the North a recognized nuclear state, South Koreans could see their worst nightmare realized.

      Kim believes hanging on to his nuclear weapons is his only hope of remaining in power. That attitude has not changed since the days of former his father Kim Jong-il. Hopes of denuclearization are fading rapidly. Moon will sit face to face with Biden on May 21. He needs to let the U.S. leader know that his goal is the complete scrapping of North Korea's nuclear weapons, not another publicity stunt.

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