Biden Seeks Third Way in Korean Peninsula

Strategic Council Online - North Korea is among the main issues included in the US foreign policy agenda in recent decades. Mohammad Javad Ghahremani - PhD in international relations, University of Tehran

Although every president in the United States having a specific plan to resolve this issue, however it has so far remained unresolved. Neither Obama’s “strategic patience”, nor Trump’s “maximum pressure” and “big deal” have not been able to resolve the crisis in the peninsula. The direct meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, which took place for the first time between the leaders of the two countries, has brought hope among some analysts and politicians, especially given Kim Jong-Un’s desire to follow the Vietnamese model, that there is a possibility of change in the situation of the peninsula; but neither those meetings nor the efforts of the South Korean president could change the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

With the rise of Joe Biden to power in the United States, the question arises as to whether there is a possibility of a change in US-North Korea relations. Looking at the evidence over the past few months, one can deny a major shift in relations between Washington and Pyongyang. The first warning came from the North Korean leader’s sister following a joint US-South Korean military maneuver. The test of two cruise missiles, followed by the test of two ballistic missiles launched into the Sea of ​​Japan, was one of Pyongyang’s practical measures to counter the US threat.

On the other hand, in the past few months, elements of the Biden administration’s approach to the North Korean issue can be explored. White House spokesman Jen Psaki said in late April that the Biden administration had completed an assessment of the US approach to North Korea. The main point of her remarks was that the United States will not follow either Trump’s “big deal” approach or Obama’s “strategic patience”; rather, it will pursue a practical and concrete approach that paves the way for diplomacy. At the same time, he said, the US target remains the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Another important feature of Biden administration’s approach is its coordination with allies, including Japan and South Korea. During Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin’s first foreign trip to Asia, the issue of North Korea was one of the main topics of information exchange and talks. In a joint meeting with the Congress, Biden stressed the need to work with allies to counter the North Korean threat. Biden’s first meeting at the White House with foreign leaders was with the presidents of Japan and South Korea.

As can be seen from the content of the statements of Biden administration officials, one should expect a moderate approach in the policy of the American Democratic administration; this means that the issue of phased denuclearization is likely to be the third major axis of the Biden administration’s foreign policy on the North Korean issue. Although previous administrations have not taken this approach because of fears of North Korean deception, as some US officials have suggested, the new US administration may grant some tranquilizers in exchange for North Korea’s special steps, while at the same time following the ultimate target of denuclearization of Korea.

However, there are serious challenges in achieving nuclear disarmament of North Korea; on the one hand, it goes back to the Chinese approach; Beijing will play a key role in any process of denuclearization of North Korea. However, there is concern among the US decision-makers that any disarmament could eventually lead to a government close to the United States. This could play a major role in preventing change in the peninsula in the face of rising tensions with the United States. Of course, it is also worth noting that the situation on the peninsula in those circumstances provides a good excuse for the United States to justify its presence in the Asia-Pacific.

Being nuclear part of North Korea’s identity

Another challenge is North Korea’s transition from a stage which is difficult to return to it. Being nuclear has become part of the country’s identity, and the history of the past two decades shows that at the end of each administration in the United States, the number of North Korean nuclear weapons has increased significantly.

Another challenge is the role of “Moon Jae-in” as the supporter of the policy of engagement with North Korea. The citation to Singapore’s statement in 2018 in a joint statement following Biden and Moon’s visit appears to have been influenced by the Korean president’s efforts; but if he is less fortunate in the upcoming Korean elections, one of the facilitators of the interaction may step down.

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