“The southerners are a truly weird group and hard to understand,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong said on Wednesday regarding the South Korean military’s surveillance of a military parade in the North, adding, "They are the idiot and top the world's list in misbehavior as they are only keen on things provoking world laughter.” While Kim Jong Un called for economic development saying that it is the country’s biggest hurdle at the closing of the eighth Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, he also said that the nation should do everything to strengthen nuclear war deterrence power and develop the strongest military power. He didn’t mention his plan to focus all-out efforts on building the country’s economy, about which he talked at a full assembly of the Workers’ Party in January, and practically announced the resumption of a dual-track approach for the simultaneous development of nuclear technology and economy.
The fact that the eighth Congress ended with such harsh comments ironically reveals that North Korea was unable to find a way forward for the country even after eight days of discussions. The North tried to get the U.S.’s attention and called for its change by raising the level of criticism against the South whenever its relations with the U.S. are struggling. In March 2020 when dialogues between the U.S. and North Korea were suspended, Kim Yo Jong said to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae that a scared dog is barking, followed by her requests for a ban on propaganda leaflets to the country and the abolition of the South Korea-U.S. working group in June. Under such circumstances, the Ministry of Unification began a bidding process on Tuesday for a construction company to build a 400-million-won video conference room for non-face-to-face inter-Korean dialogues. Meanwhile, the hotline between the two Koreas has not been used for three years.
The Joe Biden administration to be launched on January 20 has experienced diplomats that have worked with the Clinton and Obama administrations in its negotiation group with North Korea. The experts pursue traditional diplomacy, rather than sudden and unpredictable behaviors, unlike the Trump administration. When North Korea launched a satellite, Kwangmyongsong 2, and began the second round of nuclear tests in 2009, the Obama administration drew a line on rewards for the North and responded with strategic patience.
If the North refuses to talk and strengthens nuclear power, the only way to respond is strategic patience, which means even stricter sanctions. North Korea should be willing to talk first before the Biden administration has enough. Harsh comments will only make future dialogues more difficult. The North should stop reducing its own window of opportunities.