• Reuters


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said the country should prepare for both dialogue and confrontation with the United States, particularly confrontation, state media KCNA reported Friday, in his first direct comment on the Biden administration.

The remarks came during Thursday's plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's central committee, after an earlier session where Kim called for measures to tackle the "tense" food situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim had made a detailed analysis of U.S. policy toward Pyongyang under President Joe Biden, and laid out "appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction" with the United States, KCNA said.

"The General Secretary stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development."

Such moves would "reliably guarantee the peaceful environment and the security of our state," KCNA said. Kim also emphasized the need to create a "favorable external climate" for the North's own initiatives.

It did not provide details of any course of action.

Kim's comments continue a "wait and see" policy while refraining from provoking the Biden administration, said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S.

"It seems to suggest that Pyongyang thinks the ball is in the U.S. court at the moment, and it is waiting to see how the Biden Administration outreach goes," he said. "Given reports of North Korea's food and COVID-19 situation, one presumes that Kim is also happy to avoid a near-term confrontation."

Diplomats and analysts say the North is experiencing widespread food shortages following typhoons that destroyed crops last year, while there are concerns COVID-19 may have taken hold in the country despite no official acknowledgement by Kim's regime. Border closures have further hit an economy already battered by international sanctions.

Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first summit in May, injecting fresh urgency into efforts to engage the North in talks on its nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Kim said the overall economy had improved in the first half of the year, with total industrial output growing 25% from a year before, but called for measures to tackle the food situation.

North Korea lashed out at the U.S. and its allies in South Korea last month in a series of statements saying comments from Washington about U.S. policy toward the regime were proof of hostility that required a corresponding response from Pyongyang.

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