The Biden Administration’s failure to hold a consistent Interim National Security Strategy Guidance (INSSG) became apparent during the president’s first press conference. In Liberty Nation’s analysis of the INSSG, “Biden National Security Strategy: Climate Change and Kumbaya,” LN pointed out the paucity of any substance or realistic prioritizing of threats in the INSSG, which proved accurate. Even though Biden told the press that his top foreign policy issue is North Korea, the INSSG would lead the American public to believe that it is “climate change.”
Any emphasis on North Korea “is all but missing.” It is difficult to explain when, “The country in the Pacific with nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable missiles led by a less than stable ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-un, is mentioned twice.” As LN explained, “the word ‘climate’ is mentioned 27 times…China, a reasonably contemporary national security concern, is mentioned only 15 times, references to ‘nuclear’ only seven times.”
So, what brought on Biden’s departure from his national security team’s published U.S. strategic thinking? According to Fox News correspondent Ron Blitzer, the topic of North Korea’s recent missile tests prompted a question from the assembled press. The correspondent asked, “Former President Obama warned the incoming President Trump that North Korea was the top foreign policy issue that he was watching. Is that how you assess the crisis in North Korea?” Biden answered, “Yes.”
That is the right answer. When North Korea conducts two sets of missile tests, as they did during the week of Biden’s press conference, those tests should always be of concern to the U.S. and the U.S. allies in the region. Politico’s Ben Leonard reported that the first set of tests were most likely short-range cruise missiles, and the second test was short-range ballistic missiles. Both of these types of missiles are capable of hitting South Korea and Japan.
According to an Associated Press report by Kim Tong-Hyung, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, “North Korea’s resumption of ballistic testing threatens ‘peace and safety in Japan and the region,’ and that Tokyo will closely coordinate with Washington and Seoul on the North’s military activities.”
For a Military Times report, Tong-Hyung said, “Experts say the flight data released by South Korea’s military and North Korea’s own description of the tests indicated that the North tested a new solid-fuel weapon that is designed to evade missile defense systems and is potentially nuclear-capable.” If true, this development significantly increases the effectiveness of the North’s missiles. The solid-fuel feature makes the missiles much easier to transport and launch, eliminating the need for liquid fueling.
However, there are the chatterers (unnamed administration officials) on the Biden national security team who choose to confuse the U.S. policy toward North Korea. Natasha Bertrand, referring to the North Korean missile tests, reported in Politico that Biden officials wanted to “downplay” any conclusions that might be drawn from the tests and preferred not to view the missile tests as a “major provocation.”
Instead, the narrative should be classified as “normal military activity” for the North Koreans.
As Bertrand explained, the officials wanted to emphasize that,
“The short-range system used last weekend is not banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions, the officials said, but would not disclose details, citing ‘intelligence concerns. We do not believe that it is in our best interests to hype these things and circumstances in which we would consider those activities as part of a ‘normal’ set of a tense military environment like we see on the Korean peninsula,’ one of the officials said.”
Those within the effective range of the missiles being tested, Japan and South Korea, can be expected to look at the tests with more concern, and rightly so. Additionally, the concept of “downplaying” any North Korean behavior was not the message that the U.S. diplomatic team led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin conveyed during their visits to Tokyo and Seoul.
Additionally, in President Biden’s press conference last week, he was quite clear in addressing the challenge North Korea presents. He said:
“We’re consulting with our allies and partners…And there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly. But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.”
Remember, “conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization” was the Trump administration’s firm position. It is encouraging that at least President Biden is on board with that policy toward Pyongyang.
Further fortifying the fact that Biden places importance on the North Korean threat, Tong-Hyung explains that the North Korean’s believe Biden’s strong words. In a statement put out by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea said that the government expresses “deep apprehension” over Biden’s remarks “openly revealing his deep-seated hostility toward the DPRK [Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name].”
Now, it would be helpful if Biden could get his administration’s “unnamed officials” to stop soft-pedaling North Korean missile testing and convince his national security team to establish the North as a higher priority threat in the U.S. National Security Strategy. North Korea, with nuclear-capable missiles, has to be a little bit higher on the global threat scale than climate change.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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