US "prepared" to pursue diplomacy with N. Korea, Blinken says

Posted on : 2021-05-25 17:06 KST Modified on : 2021-05-25 17:06 KST
The secretary of state told ABC that the ball is now in North Korea's court
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Reuters/Yonhap News)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Reuters/Yonhap News)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC that the US has laid out its policy to the North Koreans and that "the ball's in their court."

"We're waiting to see if Pyongyang actually wants to engage. The ball's in their court," Blinken said in an interview with the network on Sunday. "We're prepared to do the diplomacy. The question is: Is North Korea?"

"We've made clear we're prepared to pursue this diplomatically even as the sanctions remain in place because North Korea continues to engage in activities that are clearly prohibited by the United Nations."

Blinken's remarks came after US President Joe Biden unveiled a pragmatic and calibrated approach to North Korea aimed at the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday. That was consistent with the outline of the US's North Korea policy that the White House had unveiled at the end of April.

In their joint statement, Moon and Biden stressed the need for diplomacy and dialogue with North Korea based on 2018 statements signed by Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Panmunjom and by Kim and then-US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

Biden underscored his commitment to dialogue with the surprise announcement that he has appointed Sung Kim, the US ambassador to Indonesia, as the US's special envoy to North Korea. Kim is expected to hold the positions concurrently.

"I don't think there's going to be a grand bargain where this gets resolved in one fell swoop. It's got to be clearly calibrated diplomacy [and] clear steps from the North Koreans," Blinken said.

That echoed Biden's remarks in the joint press conference following his summit with Moon that he would only meet Kim Jong-un if there was a definite commitment to denuclearization, a position Biden has long maintained.

In addition, Blinken emphasized how Biden had arrived at his North Korea policy. First, officials reviewed the policies of previous administrations and "consulted very closely with our allies and partners, starting with South Korea and Japan" and with experts.

"What President Biden determined was the best chance we have to achieve the objective of the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is to engage diplomatically with North Korea on a deliberate, calibrated approach," Blinken said.

Blinken also said that the US won't need to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea.

"We don't and we shouldn't, but let's be honest: This is a hard problem," Blinken said.

By Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

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