As the Biden administration’s secretaries of Defense and State meet counterparts in Seoul, South Korea, Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, issued a not-so-thinly-veiled warning: “Refrain from causing a stink.” Considered by many as a strong ally of her brother, Kim Yo-jong’s increased public statements and appearances signal a growing power base in North Korea. In April 2020, Liberty Nation reported on the importance that sister Kim was gaining in North Korea, and it appears, with this recent statement, the trend continues.
BBC News provided the sister’s full warning in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the official voice of the regime, where she said:
“A word of advice to the new administration of the United States that is struggling to spread the smell of gunpowder on our land from across the ocean. If it wants to sleep in peace for [the] coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
In colorful language reminiscent of western radio drama Gunsmoke, sister Kim launched an opening salvo of bravado, letting the United States know nothing has changed. That reinforced a point made just before President Joe Biden’s inauguration: The North Koreans told the world that the Kim regime had a new submarine-launched ballistic missile. North Korea has a submarine fleet estimated at 82, but only two are ballistic-missile capable.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Sabrina Siddiqui and Michael R. Gordon observed in their article, “U.S. Outreach to North Korea Has Gone Unanswered, White House Says,” that North Korea “labels the U.S. as its biggest enemy.” Contrast that statement with Biden’s Interim National Security Strategy Guidance that barely mentions North Korea. With his nuclear weapons and indisputably hostile attitude toward the United States, Kim Jong-un will have to take his place in line well back of climate change.
Meanwhile, when it comes to North Korea, the Biden national security team explained that it has contacted the North Korean government. Again, from WSJ, we learned, “The Biden administration has reached out to North Korea to launch a dialogue on Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs but has yet to receive a response, the White House said … ” Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained, “Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But to date, we have not received any response. Diplomacy continues to remain our first priority.”
The last official contact with the North Koreans was in February 2019 when President Donald Trump walked away from talks with Kim Jong-un because the United States was not making the progress it desired in establishing peace in the region. Tim Donner explained the issues in Liberty Nation’s “Trump Walks, North Korea Talks End Abruptly,” quoting Trump:
“‘It was about the sanctions,’ Trump told reporters in a hastily called press conference. ‘Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.'”
Will the Biden administration’s “diplomacy” be effective? Questionable. Recently, NBC News reported that “Biden aides bristled when a Justice official called North Korea a ‘criminal syndicate.’” In February, the Department of Justice – which we assume can identify a “criminal syndicate” — indicted three North Koreans for cybercrimes. Said NBC News:
“The rhetoric, the aides complained to the Justice Department, wasn’t the toned-down type that senior officials had agreed just days earlier to use when speaking publicly about North Korea, and it risked antagonizing Pyongyang. A senior official said aides at the National Security Council ‘were not pleased with the choice of language’ and expressed concern to the Justice Department that it was ‘going to provoke North Korea.'”
Now, let’s get this straight. Sister Kim openly threatens the United States, and the U.S. response is, be careful, we don’t want to ruffle the North Korean Blessed Leader’s feathers by calling a North Korean criminal syndicate what it is. The NBC piece went on to describe the Biden team’s concern that they didn’t want to stir up “a looming crisis” by offending the North Koreans. They couldn’t decide whether to confront or to “ignore the North Korean nuclear threat.” This attitude expressed so early in the Biden administration does not bode well for a strong U.S. bulwark against North Korean adventurism or reducing Kim Jong-un’s nuclear capability.
In any case, this whistling-past-the-graveyard foreign policy is a feckless approach to Kim and his outspoken sister. It stands in stark contrast to the tough stance of the Trump administration. For the sake of U.S. national security and the safety of our allies, let’s hope that what we’ve seen so far from the Biden national security team is not what we will endure for the next three years, nine months, and approximately 25 days. But who’s counting?
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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