Kim Jong-un prepares for ‘dialogue and confrontation’ with the US

World

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released on 18 June 2021 shows North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un attending the third day sitting of the 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers" Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea

EPA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country needs to prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the US, and “especially to get fully prepared for confrontation”.

This marks the first time Mr Kim has directly commented on President Biden’s administration.

North Korea had earlier snubbed efforts by the new US government to establish diplomatic communication.

Mr Kim was speaking at a meeting of senior leaders in Pyongyang.

The ruling Workers’ Party central committee meeting started this week in the capital Pyongyang.

Mr Kim said they needed “especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development”, as well as to guarantee a peaceful environment and North Korea’s security, according to state media outlet KCNA.

He also said North Korea would “sharply and promptly” react to any developments and “concentrate efforts on taking stable control of the situation on the Korean peninsula”.

His latest comments come days after Mr Kim formally acknowledged that North Korea was facing concerns over food shortages.

A fraught relationship

Mr Kim’s relationship with Mr Biden’s administration has so far been fraught with tension.

Prior to the US election, Mr Biden had called Mr Kim a “thug”, and days before Mr Biden’s inauguration, North Korea put on a show of force with a massive military parade that showcased a new missile.

In April Mr Biden referred to North Korea as a “serious threat” to global security, prompting an angry response from North Korea which said the statement reflected Mr Biden’s intent to “keep enforcing the hostile policy” towards the country.

Washington also recently completed a review of its North Korea policy and said that the US would continue to aim for the eventual complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Biden has promised an approach marked by diplomacy and “stern deterrence”.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said that “our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience”.

The US would instead pursue a “calibrated practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with” North Korea, she said, adding it would focus on making “practical progress”.

Mr Kim had previously met Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump on three occasions, but talks on denuclearisation eventually stalled.

“The Biden administration has said the ball is in North Korea’s court, but the Kim regime has been serving up some strategic patience of its own,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“It remains focused on domestic issues and wants to see much larger incentives from Washington,” he added.

“Pyongyang may return to negotiations only after demonstrating strength with post-pandemic economic recovery and provocative military tests.”

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