North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the US is his nuclear-armed nation’s “principal enemy,” state media reported yesterday, as he threw down the diplomatic gauntlet to the incoming administration of US president-elect Joe Biden.
The declaration comes less than two weeks ahead of Biden’s inauguration and follows a tumultuous relationship between Kim and outgoing US President Donald Trump.
Kim and Trump first engaged in a war of words and mutual threats, before an extraordinary diplomatic “bromance” that featured headline-grabbing summits and declarations of love by the US president.
Photo: AFP / KCNA VIA KNS
Little substantive progress was made, with the process deadlocked after their February 2019 meeting in Hanoi broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
North Korea should focus on “containing and subduing the US, the fundamental obstacle to the development of our revolution and our foremost principal enemy,” Kim told the five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
“The real intention of its policy toward the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will never change, whoever comes into power in the US,” it quoted him as saying, without specifically mentioning Biden.
“The check has come due on the Singapore and Hanoi Summits,” Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment wrote on Twitter. “And the Biden administration gets to pick up the tab.”
The change of leadership in Washington presents a challenge for Pyongyang, which has previously called Biden a “rabid dog,” while he characterized Kim as a “thug” during the presidential debates.
The US is expected to return to more orthodox diplomatic approaches under Biden, such as insisting on extensive progress at working-level talks before any leaders’ summit would be considered.
Kim “sees a stalemate that won’t change anytime soon,” said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest.
The Biden administration was unlikely to react strongly to Kim’s comments as they were “only words,” said Cho Seong-ryoul of the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul.
“But if the North carries them into action with provocation or launches, I expect it to respond severely,” Cho added.
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