President Trump’s attempt to achieve a detente with North Korea didn’t end successfully, but at least the bad old days of Kim Jong Un firing missiles into the seas around Guam or Pyongyang — or of him constantly saber-rattling about building his nation’s nuclear arsenal — had stopped.
Well, there’s going to be a new administration, one that Kim feels the need to test.
In a message issued through state media organ Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), in remarks delivered at a rare party congress in Pyongyang last week, Kim said the United States is North Korea’s “biggest enemy” and promised major leaps forward in his country’s nuclear technology.
“Our external political activities must focus on controlling and subjugating the United States, our archenemy and the biggest stumbling block to the development of our revolution,” Kim said, according to The New York Times.
“No matter who takes power in the United States, its true nature and its policy toward our country will never change.”
The statement said Kim promised to build solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be launched from both land and submarines.
He also said his country’s nuclear missiles would get smaller and more precise.
The country’s new solid-fuel missiles will be able to hit targets up to 9,320 miles away, Kim claimed, according to NPR. That means they’d be able to reach the United States.
And if Joe Biden wants to make peace with Kim, KCNA reported, the intelligent thing to do would be to start being nice to him.
“The report said that the key to the establishment of new North Korea-U.S. relations is the withdrawal of the U.S.’ hostile North Korea policy,” KCNA said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Kim added that with Biden, he would be “responding to force with force, and to good will with good will,” The Times reported. The nuclear weapons buildup, Kim said, was to “drive diplomacy in the right direction and guarantee its success” with Washington.
Biden has called for “principled diplomacy” with Kim, which is to say that strategy involving meetings with the North Koreans likely is off the table.
He’s also called Kim a “thug” and a “dictator.” Both of which are accurate, both of which sound nice on the campaign trail and neither of which is going to fly in terms of dealing with Pyongyang in a substantive manner.
Take their first exchange. According to Reuters, Biden said on the campaign trail in May that Trump’s summits with Kim were “antithetical to who we are.”
“Are we a nation that embraces dictators and tyrants like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Kim Jong Un?” Biden said.
KCNA responded by calling Biden “an imbecile.”
“What he uttered is just sophism of an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being, let alone a politician,” read a commentary from North Korean state media.
In no area would it make me happier to see Biden succeed than in taking Pyongyang down as many notches as possible or finding a way to bring Kim’s regime to the bargaining table. The problem is that Biden’s campaign took the wrong message away from this.
“Trump has also been repeatedly tricked into making major concessions to the murderous regime in Pyongyang while getting nothing in return,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, according to Reuters.
“Given Vice President Biden’s record of standing up for American values and interests, it’s no surprise that North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House.”
Of course Biden’s campaign said this, but the truth is that North Korea has been crippled by a regime of financial sanctions. Part of that was put into place by the Trump administration. Plus, what already was there, the administration didn’t take off.
In fact, one reason for the rare party congress in North Korea was for Kim to acknowledge the regime had fallen far short of its economic targets, in large part due to the sanctions.
“Our five-year economic development plan has fallen greatly short of its goals in almost all sectors,” Kim acknowledged in his speech to open the congress on Tuesday.
“I am really sorry for that,” he added, with The New York Times reporting he appeared to be fighting back tears. “My efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their life.”
While part of this was due to floods and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, sanctions played a significant role. Given that Kim’s entire reason for negotiating with the United States was having these sanctions lifted — and he failed — this doesn’t exactly sound like appeasement.
Mind you, Kim didn’t blame his problems on this, with KCNA reporting the leader and other speakers “coldly criticized mistakes in their fields including the issue of failing to implement the five-year plans for national economic development set forth by the Party congress and the issue of failing to actively introduce reality-friendly and people-friendly methods in the Party work and seriously analyzed the lesson that if officials fail to work with responsibility, being soaked in defeatism and self-protectionism before hardship, it would be impossible to properly carry out the Party decisions nor would it be possible to bring about development and innovation.”
I bring that up only because it’s been quite some time since I’ve had to read a piece of KCNA-penned propaganda that knotty, anti-sensical and prevaricating. Say what you will about Beijing’s poorly written sub-Pravda English-language propaganda mills, but they can’t churn out anything as bad as KCNA.
At least for a while, it seems, I’m going to have to read them again as they test President-elect Biden.
So how does he plan to deal with them? His basic strategy, as far as it’s been delineated, involves working with our allies in South Korea and Japan. Which is fine, but … that’s what we’ve done before.
I suppose you shouldn’t tell one of our chief enemies how you plan to deal with them, but Biden’s foreign policy in every other aspect thus far appears to have been derived by reaching into the playbook marked “2009,” blowing a layer of dust off it and then going with whatever was there. This likely won’t be any different.
I hope you like that stilted, wooden KCNA prose excerpted above. I’m guessing you’re going to be hearing a lot more of it — likely attached to some unpleasant announcements about ICBMs or nuclear weapons as Kim Jong Un dares Joe Biden to respond.
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