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US falls short of persuading North Korea to dialogue: experts

Washington puts ball to Pyongyang's court

By Kang Seung-woo

Despite a series of messages from senior U.S. officials highlighting diplomacy as the focal point of the new American government's policy toward North Korea, Washington is still short of cajoling Pyongyang into returning to negotiations, according to diplomatic observers, Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken / AFP-Yonhap
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken / AFP-Yonhap
Since the U.S. announced last week the completion of a review of its future policies on the totalitarian state without elaborating, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have signaled possible diplomatic engagement toward North Korea.

"I hope that North Korea will take the opportunity to engage diplomatically and to see if there are ways to move forward toward the objective of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Blinken said in a joint press conference with his British counterpart Dominic Raab during the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meeting, Monday (local time).

"What we have now is a policy that calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with North Korea to try to make practical progress that increases security of the United States, our allies and our deployed forces."

Earlier, Sullivan also said in a TV interview that the new U.S. policy toward North Korea was aimed at not "hostility" but "solutions" in order to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Kim Jong-un regime has accused the U.S. of pursuing a hostile policy against it.

"We're prepared to engage in diplomacy towards that ultimate objective, but work on practical measures that can help us make progress along the way towards that goal," he said.

Hong Min, a senior researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, said the messages from Blinken and Sullivan were not what North Korea wanted to hear, failing to set the stage for Pyongyang to return to dialogue.

"Exploring diplomacy with North Korea does not embrace what the country has called for ― such as respecting its regime and abandoning its hostile policy ― from the U.S.," Hong said.

"It is not enough to bring the North to the negotiating table."

Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, also said North Korea will not respond to the U.S. calls.

"North Korea's basic position is that the U.S. must ditch its hostile policy toward the country and take actions favorable to it in advance before they sit down with each other, but the Joe Biden administration has shown few signs of doing so," Park said.

"In addition, the North may not respond to the U.S. calls for diplomatic engagement, given that its recent belligerent acts, including its short-range ballistic missile tests on March 25, have led the Biden administration to make any conciliatory gesture in dealing with Pyongyang."

Park added: "Should its economy back up, North Korea may continue to disregard the U.S. calls, given that it proclaimed a head-on breakthrough battle during its eighth party congress in January."

Relations between the two nations have been deadlocked since their last summit in Hanoi in February 2019 failed to yield a deal.

The observers expressed the concern that tensions could escalate on the Korean Peninsula.

"Given that the U.S. and North Korea are both taking a proportionate response measure, I am concerned that should a confrontational mode continue and one party drives misconception, tensions are expected to significantly ratchet up," Hong said.


Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr


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