N Korea’s Kim vows to be ready for confrontation with US

Hyung-Jin Kim
Associated Press

Seoul, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his government to be fully prepared for confrontation with the Biden administration, state media reported Friday, days after the United States and other major powers urged the North to abandon its nuclear program and return to talks.

Kim issued the order Thursday while clarifying the steps the North must take in response to the policy direction of the new U.S. government of President Joe Biden during an ongoing ruling party meeting in Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim “stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation” with the Biden administration, KCNA said.

In this June 30, 2019, file photo, Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the North Korean side of the border at the village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone.

Such a preparation is necessary 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 quoted Kim as saying.

In 2018-2019, Kim held a series of high-stakes summit meetings with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, to discuss the future of his advancing nuclear arsenal. But their nuclear negotiations eventually fell apart after Trump rejected Kim’s calls for extensive sanctions relief in return for a partial surrender of his nuclear capability.

Since taking office in January, the Biden administration has worked to formulate a new approach on North Korea’s nuclear program that it describes as “calibrated and practical.” Details of Biden’s North Korea policy haven’t been publicized, but U.S. officials have suggested Biden would seek a middle ground between Trump’s direct meetings with Kim and former President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” to curb Kim’s nuclear program.

Earlier this week, leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations issued a statement calling for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and “the verifiable and irreversible abandonment” North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. They called on North Korea to engage and resume dialogue and respect human rights conditions.

Kim didn’t say what specific steps North Korea would take. But some experts have said he could launch provocative missile and other weapons tests in coming months to draw U.S. attentions and boost his leverage ahead of possible new negotiations with the United States.

In an early message to Washington in January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland if Washington refused to abandon its hostile policy on North Korea.

In March, Kim’s military performed its first short-range ballistic missile tests in a year. But North Korea still maintains a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests in an indication that Kim still wants to keep prospects for diplomacy alive.

Kim is currently grappling with deepening economic worries caused by coronavirus-caused border closings that have drastically shrunk external trade, the U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters last summer. Earlier this week, Kim warned of a “tense” food situation in North Korea.