Washington – State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday played down concerns that not engaging North Korea swiftly could lead Pyongyang to take provocative actions to draw the attention of the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
“We would be more concerned with the prospect of not closely coordinating with our partners — in this instance, of course, the Republic of Korea and Japan,” Price said. The Republic of Korea is the formal name of South Korea.
He made the comments when asked about the possibility of North Korea resorting to nuclear tests or other actions as the Biden administration continues to work on crafting what it calls a “new approach” to the Asian country.
“I think the risk in moving too soon, whether the issue is Iran, whether the issue is North Korea, is that we don’t bring along our allies and our partners with us,” he also said.
The Biden administration has vowed to review North Korea policy in its entirety in consultation with U.S. allies, signaling a shift from the Donald Trump administration’s unilateralist diplomatic approach.
Price said Tuesday that the U.S. focus in formulating the new policy and undertaking the consultations will be on reducing the threat to the United States and its allies and improving the lives of the North and South Korean people, along with a continuing commitment to denuclearize Pyongyang. But details remain unclear.
Biden’s predecessor Trump engaged in unprecedented summit diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meeting him three times in 2018 and 2019 in Singapore, Vietnam and the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas in hopes of convincing the country to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But negotiations made little progress during Trump’s four years in the White House, with the two countries at odds over issues such as the degree of sanctions relief Pyongyang should receive for denuclearization steps.
On whether the Biden administration’s new approach on North Korea would mean the president not flying abroad to meet with Kim, Price said that he would not expect Biden or Secretary of State Antony Blinken to fly “anywhere anytime soon out of the country,” possibly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would expect when we are prepared to travel that you will see Secretary Blinken going first to our close allies and partners, and I would imagine that would include to our Asian allies early on,” he added.
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