Kim Jong Un said his country would prepare for both diplomacy and confrontation with the United States, in one of the first statements in which the North Korean leader hinted at a willingness to return to nuclear talks since President Biden took office.
Kim’s remarks were made in a speech to the General Assembly of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party, and were reported by the state media on Friday. The nuclear talks between the two countries were stopped in 2019.
Government officials tried to contact Pyongyang at the beginning of Biden’s tenure to assess the possibility of returning to negotiations. The U.S. president has said he is open to diplomacy with North Korea, but Kim’s regime has not yet responded significantly, U.S. officials said.
“It would have seemed like North Korea was keeping the door to almost closed diplomacy,” said Wei Song Lak, a former Seoul nuclear envoy who attended talks with the Kim administration. “Now it seems the North Koreans have opened the door a little, though not by much.”
Kim will likely aim for a short-term agreement with the US
The Biden administration has examined the North Korean policy, saying it completed it in April. Since then, administration officials have said they will continue to pressure Kim to give up all of his nuclear arsenal, but will not seek a “big deal” as former President Donald Trump wanted.
“You know, let’s take a closer look at what others have been trying to do – and what has worked and what hasn’t worked,” Biden told reporters last month after a summit with South Korean President Moon J. In. “And you know, we have no illusions about how hard it will be. We have no illusions at all.”
Trump has met with Kim three times. These interactions did not push Kim closer to nuclear disarmament, and Pyongyang expanded its nuclear weapons program in the second half of Trump’s tenure.
From Kim’s remarks this week, it is understandable that he, too, has examined his policy toward the United States, said S. Paul Choi, acting director of StratWays Group, a geopolitical risk management company in Seoul. .
Kim is likely to aim for a short-term agreement with the U.S., with Pyongyang partially dismantling its nuclear arsenal in exchange for economic or diplomatic concessions from Washington, security experts said.
Both sides have something to gain from a short-term agreement, said Chun Saung-wen, a retired national security expert from Seoul. The U.S. could reduce Kim’s nuclear threat, and North Korea could gain breathing space for its struggling economy through easing sanctions or humanitarian aid, Chun said.
“The problem is that North Korea will flee with such an agreement in its hands, ignoring U.S. demands for renegotiation designed to reach a full, long-term nuclear disarmament agreement,” he said. “Compromising is a Western idea. North Korea has been using it for a long time.”
Sung Kim, Biden’s new representative for North Korea and former U.S. ambassador to Seoul, is scheduled to visit South Korea this weekend. He is expected to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts while he is there, the State Department said.