North Korea remains the problem child for the international norms and the United States specifically. The premises for the difficulty has been a gap in the understanding among states regarding the meaning of nuclear regulations. North Korea was called a rogue state and has been defying any norms put in place in the past.
Earlier this year Joe Biden took charge as the President of the United States. While there was some breakthrough under the leadership of former president Donald Trump, the Biden administration has faced many challenges. The US and South Korea aligned together and made a plan to work on improving conditions with North Korea. They decided to form a working group to facilitate engagement with Pyongyang.
Complicated Developments and Mixed Signals
The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a few days earlier said that they were ready for dialogue as well as confrontation with the US. He emphasised on confrontation and shared the plan for a strategic and tactical counter-response to the American actions. He said that the country will protect its identity and interests in all situations. The American special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim expressed optimism about the prospects and said he looked forward to “positive dialogue soon”. He also said that they were willing to meet North Korean representatives without any pre-conditions. However the scenario is much more complex.
The Chinese envoy to Pyongyang praised the relationship between the two countries and spoke of cooperation to boost regional peace, stability, development and prosperity. This is a clear indication of the increased proximity between the two. This development is a source of concern to the western bloc.
Another twist in the tale was the statement given by North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong dismissing any hope for talks with the US. She said explicitly that the US was in for a disappointment if they hope for talks with North Korea. The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon too said that they were not even considering “resumption of stalled nuclear talks”. He supported Kim Yo Jong’s opinion and was sure that her remarks will take care of the “hasty judgement, conjecture and expectation of the US”.
The South Korean President Moon Jae-in described the North Korean leader as honest and had suggested vaccine diplomacy as a way to move forward. There has been a suggestion to discontinue the working group that was an alliance between Washington and Seoul to plan the path forward with Pyongyang. Despite the efforts, the tone of the North Korean leadership seems resistant to any talks despite the critical situation in the country with regard to food and the pandemic. The American National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the developments and the leader Kim’s statements as giving out interesting signals.
Despite the efforts taken by Washington and Seoul, the process does not seem capable of materialising into something substantial. North Korea’s ignorant approach will drive the other countries out of their patience. In the past, US had claimed that it was running out of the strategic patience with North Korea. There have been reports of food shortage in North Korea in the midst of the pandemic. It is interesting to note that North Korea has informed the World Health Organisation that there are no COVID 19 cases in the country. Experts have denied this due to its poor infrastructure and a porous border with China.
Engagement with Pyongyang is difficult to pursue due to its ignorant attitude. Moreover, the economic support by China has made the country confident of surviving the sanctions. US and its allies have attempted to get the leadership to the negotiating table and failed. It seems unlikely that the situation will reach a proper conclusion in the near future. Due to the complete isolation especially in the current scenario, getting any realistic information from North Korea is extremely difficult.
North Korea remains the fly in the ointment for the Biden administration. US President Biden has followed a balanced approach and believes in giving diplomacy a chance. It is to be seen how long the patience persists. The threats and warning from North Korea about consequences of ‘misreading signals’ and following a hostile policy is bound to frustrate the other countries. The concerns about the nuclear weapons programme in North Korea have been justified by them as the sole reason for the absence of American intervention. This argument has been used by them on various occasions but the illegality of the programme can not be denied. But in the larger picture, the rogue behaviour of North Korea has placed it as a miscreant disturbing the international peace. It is now to be seen when the wisdom prevails.