Asia Pacific|Kim Jong-un Says He’s Ready for ‘Dialogue and Confrontation’ With Biden
SEOUL — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered his government to prepare for “both dialogue and confrontation” with the United States, state news media reported on Friday. It was his first reaction to the Biden administration’s new policy on how to deal with the country’s growing nuclear and missile threat.
After a monthslong policy review, the White House said in April that it had reached “a clear understanding” that the efforts of the past four U.S. administrations had failed to denuclearize North Korea, although they had tried both dialogue and sanctions. It added that President Biden would pursue “a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy” with North Korea.
During a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Thursday, Mr. Kim “made a detailed analysis” of the Biden administration’s North Korea policy, “clarified appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction” and “stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Although the news agency said that the party had unanimously adopted a resolution, it did not disclose details. It indicated that the meeting would continue on Friday.
Mr. Kim’s comments came days before Sung Kim, Mr. Biden’s new special envoy on North Korea, was to meet with senior South Korean and Japanese officials in Seoul next week to discuss how to deal with North Korea. The North’s nuclear arsenal has been expanding despite international sanctions and the country’s deepening economic difficulties.
This week, Mr. Kim warned of a looming food shortage, prompting some analysts in South Korea to suggest that North Korea might be more willing to start a dialogue to win outside aid.
During a summit in Washington last month, Mr. Biden and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, agreed to build on the 2018 Singapore agreement struck by Mr. Kim and President Donald J. Trump. Both Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump have counted that deal as one of their biggest foreign-policy achievements, although it set only a vaguely worded goal of denuclearizing and settling peace on the peninsula.
Officials in the Biden administration have said they have been trying to establish contact with North Korea to explain their new policy. The United States and North Korea have also not disclosed details of their broadly worded approaches, closely guarding them ahead of the possible resumption of negotiations.
But North Korea has insisted since January that it will “counter the U.S. on the principle of power for power and good will for good will” — a stance Mr. Kim appeared to reiterate this week.
Mr. Kim declared his power-for-power approach during a Workers’ Party congress in January, emphasizing that his country was willing to establish a “new relationship” with the United States only if Washington withdrew its “hostile policy,” a stock phrase the North has used to refer to sanctions and the threat it said the United States military presence posed in the region. Mr. Kim also called his country “a responsible nuclear weapons state” that would not misuse its nuclear weapons.
North Korea successfully launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017 that it said were powerful enough to reach parts or all of the continental United States. Mr. Kim then declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and met with Mr. Trump three times between 2018 and early 2019 with the hopes of lifting sanctions that have increasingly strangled his country’s economy.
But his diplomacy with Mr. Trump collapsed without an agreement on how to dismantle the North’s nuclear arsenal or when to ease sanctions.
North Korea has since resumed missile tests that involved short-range projectiles. It demonstrated its expanding weapons threat by launching a new ballistic missile in March — the first such test by the country in a year and its first significant provocation against the United States under Mr. Biden.
Commercial satellite images have also shown activities in a nuclear complex north of Pyongyang, where the country has been making fuel for atomic bombs.