GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 516, 9 May 2021

North Korea: Pyongyang considers Biden's new approach as hostile
Avishka Ashok

What happened?
On 2 May, the Korea Central News Agency, mouthpiece of the North Korean government, released three statements in response to Biden's new policy on North Korea, which was disclosed after months of review. The statements called the policy "a big blunder" and "intolerable." 

On 3 May, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan explained that the policy aims to reduce tensions between the two countries and completely denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Sullivan said: "Our policy towards North Korea is not aimed at hostility. It's aimed at solutions. It's aimed at ultimately achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
On 5 May, the G7 members appealed to North Korea to restart negotiations on ending its policy on nuclear arms and resuming the inter-Korean dialogue. The group also extended their support for the US policy on denuclearizing the peninsula. 

What is the background?
First, Biden's approach towards North Korea. The US President Joe Biden firmly believes that the US policy towards North Korea was due for a comprehensive review as the previous administrations were unable to yield any positive outcomes in the issue of nuclear diplomacy. Even though former President Donald Trump succeeded in conducting multiple summits with Kim Jong-un, the meetings did not result in any significant developments. The previous attempts to engage with North Korea have made it certain for Biden that sanctions and coercion will not produce any positive results. 

Second, North Korea's resilience towards sustenance and protecting its interests. North Korea has managed to withstand sanctions and trade embargoes from the West and continues to pour huge amounts of money into its nuclear programs. The capital to support the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-un may have illegal sources, but the fact remains that the country has sustained itself and its nuclear goals even during the pandemic. However, the cost was paid heavily by the common man. The continuity of the nuclear goals over the decades is evidence that the previous policies of the West have failed to contain North Korea. Denuclearization will not be on the agenda for Kim Jong-un. 

Third, the quest for a suitable approach towards North Korea. The issue of North Korean threat due to its nuclear capabilities is not a recently evolved crisis. The US Presidents from George W Bush to Joe Biden have been compelled to deal with Kim's nuclear ambitions during their presidency. However, Joe Biden faces a pressing challenge as he needs to formulate a policy that would ultimately appease South Koreans, Japanese, and North Koreans. The challenge primarily lies in pushing North Korea towards a future without nuclear ammunition. Joe Biden's new policy tries to learn from his predecessors' mistakes and attempts to combine sanctions with diplomatic negotiations. 

What does it mean?
The new policy, announced on 30 April, seems to be a combination of the Trump and Obama approach; wherein the US will attempt to engage with North Korea, primarily through diplomacy but will rationally resort to sanctions if it fails to produce the expected results. Despite convincing efforts to resolve the issue of denuclearization, it is unlikely that the new approach of Joe Biden will lead to much success. A moderate approach, combining sanctions and negotiations may still not be enough to solve the problem of denuclearization in the coming decade.