The Slatest

North Korea’s Kim Vows to Be Ready for “Dialogue and Confrontation” With U.S.

People watch a television screen at Suseo railway station in Seoul on March 26, 2021, showing file footage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
People watch a television screen at Suseo railway station in Seoul on March 26, 2021, showing file footage of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. JUNG YEON-JE/Getty Images

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had been pretty silent about relations with Washington since President Joe Biden took office. Now he has spoken and called on his government to get ready for both diplomacy and confrontation with the United States. Kim did emphasize the confrontation side of the equation during a “detailed analysis” of Biden’s North Korea policy, state-controlled Korean Central News Agency said. Kim “stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development and to reliably guarantee the peaceful environment and the security of our state,” KCNA said.

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Despite the focus on confrontation, Kim’s apparent willingness to dialogue as well marks a possible opening to resume nuclear talks with Washington that have been at a standstill since 2019. “By sending out both messages, North Korea is sticking to a kind of wait-and-see strategy with regard to the new US administration. But behind the ambiguity of Kim’s message is also a signal that North Korea is willing to return to talks,” writes the BBC’s Nari Kim.

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Biden’s administration had made an effort to reach out to Pyongyang to understand whether nuclear negotiations could resume but did not receive a clear answer. Then in April, the White House said it reached a “clear understanding” of how efforts to negotiate with North Korea had failed recently. At the time the White House said Biden was ready to “explore diplomacy” with North Korea. Kim spoke at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party shortly before Biden’s new special envoy on North Korea, Sung Kim, is set to meet with South Korean and Japanese officials to discuss North Korea.

Kim opening the door to dialogue also comes amid a warning from the totalitarian leader about a looming food shortage, which analysts had said could make North Korea more willing to relaunch stalled negotiations. It isn’t clear exactly how bad the situation is in North Korea yet but analysts say It’s unlikely that the country is close to reaching a famine like it suffered in the 1990s. Still, analysts the situation could at the very least push North Korea to try to seek a short-term agreement with the United States.

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