SEOUL – North Korea has lashed out at President Joe Biden, warning the U.S. will face a “very grave situation,” after the White House announced the broad outlines of its plan for diplomacy with Pyongyang.
The statement, issued Sunday by a senior North Korean diplomat, was the country’s first official reaction to the Biden administration’s just-completed North Korea policy review, which expresses an openness to talks with the nuclear-armed country.
Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of U.S. Affairs of the North’s Foreign Ministry, dismissed the U.S. approach as a “spurious signboard for covering up its hostile acts” against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.
“Now that … the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation,” Kwon said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
“The U.S. will face worse and worse crisis beyond control in the near future if it is set to approach the DPRK-U.S. ties, still holding on the outdated policy from Cold War-minded perspective and viewpoint,” he added.
Following a monthslong internal review, the White House on Friday announced a general overview of its North Korea plan. The policy attempts to take a middle approach between those of Biden’s recent predecessors.
“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK and to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and deployed forces.”
North Korea has boycotted talks with the U.S. since 2019. In February of that year, a summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly after Trump rejected Kim’s offer of sanctions relief for partial steps to dismantle his nuclear program.
Biden, who took office in January, has long been critical of Trump’s meetings with Kim. He believes top-level meetings should occur only if there is progress on denuclearization.
But Biden is also attempting to discard aspects of the approach taken by former President Barack Obama, who relied on a policy of “strategic patience.” That plan sought to apply carefully calibrated economic and military pressure until Pyongyang was ready to make concessions at the negotiating table.
North Korea seems unhappy with either approach. In their statements Sunday, North Korean officials slammed recent joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. It also accused the Biden administration of “insult[ing] the dignity of our supreme leadership” by criticizing Pyongyang’s human rights record.
Last week, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement noting the “millions of North Koreans who continue to have their dignity and human rights violated by one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world.”
In response, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official said Sunday that Pyongyang “will be forced to take corresponding measures.”
“We have warned the U.S. sufficiently enough to understand that it will get hurt if it provokes us. The U.S. will surely and certainly regret for acting lightly, defying our warnings,” the official said.
More tests coming?
North Korea in March conducted its first ballistic missile test in about a year. Many experts had expected North Korea to resume tests near the outset of Biden’s term, as it has done with past U.S. administrations.
Kim said in January of last year that he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.
Pyongyang has not conducted a nuclear test or launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, before Kim’s diplomacy with Trump.