North Korea has criticized the United States for threatening its sovereignty after U.S. President Joe Biden warned Saturday that Washington would “respond accordingly” if Pyongyang chooses to escalate tensions. “If the U.S. continues with its thoughtless remarks without thinking of the consequences, it may be faced with something that is not good,” Ri Pyong Chol, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in a statement, adding that the new U.S. administration took a wrong first step. The administration said it is putting final touches on its North Korea policy review.
Such backlash from North Korea is not new. Its plan is, as the North Korea policy review is in the final stage, to test the waters with the “new U.S. administration” and put pressure first to gain an advantage in future relations with it. It wants to make it clear that weapons tests are for sovereignty and are not to be discussed at the negotiating table, but such threats have not worked and will not work.
The Biden administration has responded to North Korea’s verbal attacks and threats of weapons tests in a controlled and consistent manner, unlike its predecessor, which turned to Twitter and military actions. The new administration is treading carefully not to provoke Pyongyang while putting a premium on multilateral work. President Biden mentioned diplomacy conditioned upon denuclearization leaving the door open for dialogue, while warning North Korea of “responses.”
The Biden administration has responded at the United Nations level in accordance with international standards and the principle of multilateral cooperation. Instead of resorting to the U.N. Security Council, it requested the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea to be convened where it was agreed to open an investigation by an expert panel into Pyongyang’s launch of ballistic missiles. It is a calm and measured approach to pressuring North Korea.
North Korea should not be mistaken about this approach. The Biden administration’s foreign policy team has stressed that it would not adopt the Obama administration’s “strategic patience.” It is tweaking policies towards North Korea to balance better between dialogue and pressure, recognizing that strategic patience eventually led to oversight and allowed North Korea to develop its nuclear capabilities. North Korea’s verbal attacks on the United States will do no good as they only limit its choices and push Washington to take a tougher stance.