Kim Jong-un says he wants to respond to the U.S. with a two-handed strategy of dialogue and confrontation

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said Thursday (June 17) that the DPRK’s position toward the United States is to be ready for both dialogue and confrontation, and especially to be ready for confrontation in a foolproof manner, multiple media outlets reported, citing the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). This, Kim said, is done to safeguard North Korea’s dignity and autonomous development interests.

Kim Jong Un made the statement at the third plenary session of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang; it was the first time since President Biden entered the White House that Kim Jong Un spoke directly about North Korea’s relations with the Biden administration.

After analyzing the Biden administration’s policy moves toward North Korea, Kim Jong-un said that North Korea should insist on appropriate strategic and tactical countermeasures, i.e., on both dialogue and confrontation. Kim Jong-un also suggested that the DPRK should further improve its strategic position and dynamic role, take the initiative to create a favorable external environment, closely monitor and flexibly respond to the changing situation, and focus on stabilizing and controlling the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

KCNA did not reveal methods or details of how North Korea will prepare for both dialogue and confrontation.

Kim Jong Un’s position on the U.S. came two days before U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Sung Kim was scheduled to arrive in Seoul for a visit. Kim, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea and Indonesia and as the State Department’s acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was appointed last month as special envoy to North Korea. The State Department announced Thursday (June 17) that Kim is scheduled to visit South Korea from June 19 to 23 to discuss North Korea with South Korean and Japanese officials. This will also be Kim’s first trip abroad since becoming special envoy for North Korea.

In an interview with Reuters, Vipin Narang, an expert on nuclear weapons at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Kim Jong-un seems to be taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the Biden administration and does not want to upset the White House. “Pyongyang seems to think the ball is in the U.S. court, so it will wait and see what the Biden administration does next.”

Narain added that “Kim Jong Un is also happy to avoid a near-term confrontation in light of reports of food shortages and a new crown epidemic in North Korea.”

Reuters quoted a North Korean affairs expert in Seoul as saying that although Kim Jong Un mentioned “confrontation,” he did not actually criticize the Biden administration or Seoul, while also emphasizing stability and control of the situation. The expert believes that Kim Jong Un is actually sending a message that he is willing to return to the negotiating table at some point.

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the United States in May, he had joined President Biden in expressing the urgency of restarting talks with North Korea on denuclearization of the peninsula. Also in May, however, North Korea issued a statement lambasting the U.S. and South Korea for their hostile policies toward North Korea and the need for Pyongyang to respond in kind.

The third meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) opened Tuesday (June 15) to discuss North Korea’s major domestic and diplomatic affairs and ways to resolve current difficulties. In his speech at the meeting, Kim Jong-un also said that providing a stable life for the people and timely resolution of difficulties is the top priority of the policies of the Workers’ Party and the government, saying that decisive measures should be taken to timely resolve the pressing issues that people are currently most concerned about and expecting.