The U.S. administration announced that it will adopt a "new strategy” for North Korea. “Our president's view is, of course - that is without question - that North Korea's nuclear ballistic missile and other proliferation related activities constitute a serious threat to the international peace and security of the world,” said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki on Friday. It is the first mention made by the Biden administration of a "new strategy” for Pyongyang.
These remarks from the spokesperson of the White House are tantamount to an official confirmation that its direction of "Anything But Trump” also applies to North Korea policy, which means that new U.S. leadership will refrain from taking the approach used by former U.S. President Donald Trump and avoid seeking for dialogue based on personal relationships between heads of state or one-time events only for show by the president. Regarding the new strategy for North Korea, spokesperson Psaki said, “That approach will begin with a thorough policy review of the state of play in North Korea, in close consultation with South Korea, Japan, and other allies on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any future diplomacy,” putting an emphasis on agreement with its allies. As Washington mentioned an upcoming change in North Korea policy, this served as a catalyst for the tug-of-war that began with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's declaration on a "tit-for-that” approach.
As top security leaders of South Korea and the United States talked over the phone on Saturday followed by the next day's phone call between the two nations’ national defense ministers, the two allies reaffirmed their steadfast alliance relationship and close collaboration. Given that Pyongyang escalated its nuclear threats by releasing the newest submarine-launched ballistic missile Pukguksong-5, Washington has apparently sent a warning message to Pyongyang. This is in line with the focus of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on “extended deterrent” through which U.S. strategic assets can be deployed to the Korean Peninsula.
However, CVID (Complete Verifiable Irreversible Dismantling) was mentioned during a phone call between defense ministers of Washington and Tokyo, which Secretary Austin did not discuss with South Korean National Defense Minister Suh Hoon. This explains why some experts expressed concerns immediately on how different views Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have regarding North Korean nuclear issues. South Korean National Unification Advisory Council Vice Chairman Jeong Se-hyun said on Thursday, "Washington may accept that Pyongyang has several nuclear weapon systems and only stay content with keeping them from spreading further.”
The South Korean government also agrees that the core condition of peace on the Korean Peninsula is to ensure North Korea's denuclearization and the key lies in the hands of Washington and Pyongyang. As it may take some time for the Biden administration to come up with a new North Korea strategy, Seoul should use this as an opportunity. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday that the Korean peace process, which starts with a war-ending declaration and ends with a peace system, is not an option but a must-go path forward. As Washington has started navigated a new route for North Korean nuclear issues, Seoul should use some flexibility to keep up.