Monday, May 10, 2021

Blinken urges North Korea to denuclearize, calls on China to help

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Blinken declined to comment on a statement by a North Korean diplomat that the Biden administration’s outreach to Pyongyang was a “cheap trick” and an assertion that there would be no dialogue until the United States drops its hostile policy.

“What has been heard from the U.S. since the emergence of the new regime is only lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearisation,”’ said Choe Son Hui, the North’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, in a statement on Thursday.

The Biden administration has insisted that its goal is the complete denuclearization of North Korea, a demand that Pyongyang rejects as a nonstarter. And no mainstream analyst believes the North will ever voluntarily give up its entire nuclear arsenal.

During Thursday’s press conference, Blinken also called on China to use its “tremendous influence” through its economic relationship with North Korea to convince Pyongyang to denuclearize.

The countries have a “shared interest in making sure that we do something about North Korea’s nuclear program and the increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program,” he said.

U.S. officials are on alert for North Korea to resume long-range missile testing after a three-year hiatus, as a response to ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, POLITICO reported Wednesday.

Pyongyang views the drills as an act of hostility, although the Trump administration drastically scaled back the event in the past few years due to diplomatic talks.

The back and forth is reminiscent of the early years of former President Donald Trump’s administration, when Pyongyang test-fired a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the United States. Trump at the time threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangered Americans; North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded that he was considering a strike that would create an “enveloping fire” around Guam.

North Korea did halt its testing of long-range ballistic and nuclear missiles after a 2018 summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim. But it has continued developing and displaying advanced new weapons and conducted a series of short-range missile tests last year.

The latest sharp rhetoric began on Tuesday as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conducted meetings in Japan. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, criticized Washington and its South Korean allies for holding joint military exercises. In a fiery statement, she warned the new Biden administration to “refrain from causing a stink.”

“If they want to have a good night’s sleep for the next four years, it would be good for them not to do things that would prevent them from sleeping properly from the start,” she said.

The leader’s sister also threatened to abandon a 2018 bilateral agreement to reduce military tensions with Seoul and abolish a decades-old unit tasked with handling inter-Korean relations.

“We will keep an eye on [South Korea’s] attitude and behavior, and if they become more provocative, we could take exceptional measures,” she said.

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