US President-elect Joe Biden’s candidate for secretary of state has said the new administration will launch a full review of Washington’s approach to North Korea with the aim of increasing pressure on the country to resume negotiations on its nuclear weapons program.
During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Antony Blinken said the United States would also consider providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea, which faces its most serious challenges since some three million people have died. in a famine in the 1990s.
“I think we need to review, and we intend to review, the whole approach and policy towards North Korea, because it is a difficult issue that has plagued the administration after administration. And it’s a problem that hasn’t improved – in fact, it got worse, ”Blinken told lawmakers.
This promise was made when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called the United States his country’s “main enemy” and promised to expand its nuclear and ballistic missile program, despite punished international sanctions. North Korea too unveiled what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, which state media called “the world’s most powerful weapon.”
Some analysts say the demonstration of military might is a sign that North Korea may CV nuclear and ballistic missile testing, which Kim suspended in 2018 amid talks with outgoing US President Donald Trump. Those talks have since collapsed amid disagreements over disarmament measures and North Korea’s demand to remove sanctions.
Observers say Biden, due to take office on Wednesday, must treat North Korea as a “top priority” to prevent the country from further advancing its nuclear and missile arsenal – a move that some fear will allow Pyongyang to seek concessions simply to reduce tensions over progress in denuclearization.
Blinken’s pledge on Tuesday for a review of Washington’s North Korea policy came in response to a question from Democratic Senator Ed Markey, who asked if he would support, with the ultimate goal of denuclearization of North Korea , a “phased deal” that offered personalized relief from sanctions. in Pyongyang in exchange for a verifiable freeze on its weapons programs.
Blinken said the purpose of a review would be to “look at what options we have, and what can be effective in terms of increasing pressure on North Korea to come to the negotiating table, as well as what others diplomatic initiatives might be possible “.
It would start with close consultation with allies and partners, especially with South Korea and Japan, he said, adding: “We want to make sure that in everything we do we have an eye on the humanitarian side of the equation, not just on the security side of the equation. “
The United Nations says North Korea faces widespread food shortages amid international sanctions, border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as devastating floods that have destroyed tens of thousands of homes as well as large tracts of farmland last year. Kim himself said the past five years were “The worst of the worst” in North Korea and is committed to making the country’s economy self-sufficient.
Some reacted with skepticism to Blinken’s announcement of a policy review.
“The ritual begins,” tweeted Joshua H Pollack, editor of the Non-Proliferation Review. “First: the policy review. Second: adopt the same policy, but – above all – under a different name. (Don’t forget to talk about “breaking the cycle.”) Third: The same results. Fourth: the sad recognition that all efforts have failed. Fifth: policy review. “
The ritual begins. First: the policy review. Second: adopt the same policy, but – above all – under a different name. (Don’t forget to talk about “breaking the cycle.”) Third: The same results. Fourth: the sad recognition that all efforts have failed. Fifth: policy review. https://t.co/5qanbo4LJB
– Joshua H. Pollack (@Joshua_Pollack) January 19, 2021
Ankit Panda, senior researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted: “I am going to impose on this administration the same standards as the outgoing one on NK policy: claiming that North Korea will disarm if we continue to exert more fair pressure. good ways are doomed to failure. “
I will keep this administration at the same standards as the outgoing NK policy: pretending North Korea will disarm if we continue to apply more pressure in the right way is doomed to failure. And there is no shortage of ideas outside of government on how to proceed.
– Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) January 19, 2021
Meanwhile, in South Korea, President Moon Jae-in has appointed a former national security adviser who played a bridging role at the 2018 Kim-Trump summit as the country’s next foreign minister. .
Moon has long championed engagement with the North, and his office said in a statement that Chung, 74, was “involved in all issues of the US-Korea relationship” and was “the best expert in the field of diplomacy. and national security ”. .