VALERIA GURROLA WRITES — April 30th, 2021, marks US President Biden’s first one hundred days since taking office in January at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States. He has wasted no time setting the tone for the future of North Korean relations. North Korea must denuclearize—or else.
The Biden administration is operating under the assumption that North Korea will comply with denuclearization demands set by the UN Security Council or face military retaliation and economic isolation from the US and its allies. The message is plain and simple: there is no room for negotiating with Pyongyang anymore.
President Biden’s firm expectations for North Korea are no surprise. During his 2020 presidential campaign, he ran on a platform to restore diplomatic relations with North Korea under strict measures, which resulted in an exchange of insults between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Biden. On Biden’s campaign trail, Kim referred to him as a “rabid dog.”
The name calling is reminiscent of former President Trump and Kim’s diplomatic relationship, but Biden is moving with a different approach. At his first press conference in March 2021, Biden affirmed that denuclearizing Pyongyang is a top foreign diplomacy issue that requires a collective effort from US allies.
But how will several countries band together to disarm North Korea? By isolating North Korea from the rest of the world, through trade, until they give in to denuclearization expectations so as to save their economy. North Korea’s economy has already taken a hit due to the pandemic. The plan is feasible, but Pyongyang may escalate the tension by firing test missiles, as apparently occurred the other day.
Should that be the case, President Biden insinuated that the US would respond accordingly and perhaps even fire back. But retaliation against North Korea is unpopular with the American public. The Biden administration must take in the perspectives of the American people and allies when engaging with North Korea, or his popularity come the 2023 re-election may be in jeopardy. For now, we must see the trade isolation unfold and wait for Pyongyang’s next maneuver.
LMU’s Valeria Gurrola is an Asia Media staff member.