North Korea says Biden policy shows US intent on being hostile, threatens South

A Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Washington of insulting the dignity of the country's supreme leadership.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Washington of insulting the dignity of the country's supreme leadership.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Recent comments from US President Joe Biden and members of his administration show he is intent on maintaining a hostile policy toward North Korea that will require a corresponding response from Pyongyang, North Korean officials said on Sunday (May 2).

The officials' comments came in a series of statements carried on state news agency KCNA, after the White House on Friday said US officials had completed a months-long review of North Korean policy.

In one statement, a Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Washington of insulting the dignity of the country's supreme leadership by criticising North Korea's human rights situation.

The human rights criticism is a provocation that shows the United States is "girding itself up for an all-out showdown" with North Korea, and will be answered accordingly, the unnamed spokesman said.

In a separate statement, Kwon Jong Gun, director-general of the Department of US Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, cited Biden's first policy speech to Congress on Wednesday, where the new President said nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran posed threats that would be addressed through "diplomacy and stern deterrence."

Kwon said it is illogical and an encroachment upon North Korea's right to self-defence for the United States to call its defensive deterrence a threat.

Biden's speech was "intolerable" and "a big blunder," Kwon said. "His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the US for over half a century," he said, using the initials for North Korea's official name.

"We have warned the US sufficiently enough to understand that it will get hurt if it provokes us." The comment also came as Biden is scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on May 21, with Seoul saying that North Korea would be high on the agenda.

Moon is set to become the second foreign leader to visit the White House since Biden's inauguration, after Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and the announcement comes as Biden's administration is reviewing its policy on trying to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

'Negative responses'

The North Korean statements appear to echo comments by the ministry in March saying relations with the United States would be shaped by the "principle of power for power and goodwill for goodwill," said Jenny Town, director of the US-based 38 North programme, which tracks North Korea.

"So for the US to keep emphasising the threat, it keeps focus on the negative aspects of the relationship and will elicit negative responses," she said.

Town noted that while one statement alluded to the policy review, the North Korean commentary seemed more focused on the Biden administration's talk of threats.

Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear weapons programme have been stalled since a series of summits between Biden's predecessor, President Donald Trump, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to result in a deal.

Under the policy review announced on Friday, Biden has settled on a new approach to pressuring North Korea that will explore using diplomacy to break the stalemate but not seek a grand bargain with Kim, the White House said.

The White House and State Department did not immediately comment on the latest North Korean statements.

In Sunday's statement, Kwon said US talk of diplomacy is aimed at covering up its hostile acts, and its deterrence is just a means for posing nuclear threats to North Korea.

Now that Biden's policy has become clear, North Korea "will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the US will find itself in a very grave situation," he concluded.

In a third statement, Kim Yo Jong, a senior official in the government and sister of leader Kim Jong Un, warned that Seoul will pay a price for failing to stop defector activists from launching anti-North Korea leaflets.

An activist group in South Korea said on Friday it had released balloons into North Korea carrying dollar bills and leaflets denouncing the government in Pyongyang, defying a recently imposed law banning such releases after complaints by the North.

"We regard the manoeuvres committed by the human wastes in the south as a serious provocation against our state and will look into corresponding action," Kim Yo Jong said.

The comment reiterated her warning from June that South Korea would pay a "dear price" if it continued to allow "mongrel dogs" to send the leaflets.

Shortly after that, North Korea blew up a US$15 million (S$20 million) joint liaison office built by South Korea north of the border that served as a de facto embassy - destroying one of the most tangible symbols of Moon's rapprochement efforts.

Moon's progressive camp passed legislation in December that criminalises sending leaflets to North Korea, months after Kim's regime demanded action to stop what it called the "human scum" behind the messages.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said on Friday that it would "closely cooperate" with relevant authorities to investigate the latest incident.