White House alludes to “new strategy” regarding N. Korea

Posted on : 2021-01-25 17:01 KST Modified on : 2021-01-25 17:01 KST
Biden expected to have his first phone call with Moon soon
South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks on the phone with interim President-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 12, 2020. (provided by the Blue House)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks on the phone with interim President-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 12, 2020. (provided by the Blue House)

Following Joe Biden’s inauguration as American president, diplomatic and national security officials in his administration have started making contact with their South Korean counterparts.

On Jan. 23, Suh Hoon, director of the Blue House National Security Office, had his first chat on the phone with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Then on Jan. 24, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook spoke on the phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Officials from South Korea and the US are communicating to strengthen their alliance and to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula and achieve its denuclearization. Biden is expected to have his first phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in before long.

Suh Hoon and Sullivan’s phone call served as a chance for the two officials to get to know each other and discuss issues. “They reaffirmed the strength of the South Korea-US alliance and shared their agreement about the importance of actively cooperating not only on matters affecting the Korean Peninsula and the region but also on global issues, including COVID-19, economic recovery, climate change and cyber [security],” the Blue House said.

Sullivan said that the South Korea-US alliance is a “linchpin” for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific Region. The Americans said they would negotiate closely with us on various issues.

The Blue House added that the two sides had agreed to keep communicating and working together to achieve the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing peace there.

The White House said in a statement that Sullivan, in his phone call with Suh, had “stressed the Biden administration’s commitment to further strengthening the US-ROK [South Korea] alliance,” adding that the two officials had “discussed the importance of close coordination on [North Korea], as well as on other regional and global challenges including COVID-19 and combating climate change.”

South Korea and the US’ top defense officials also had their first phone call. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense reported that Defense Minister Suh Wook had spoken with newly confirmed US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the phone on Jan. 24 and that the two had “reaffirmed the strength of the South Korea-US alliance and the system of close cooperation between defense officials in the two countries.”

In the phone call, Austin described the South Korea-US alliance as the linchpin of peace and security in Northeast Asia and an exemplary alliance. He also emphasized that the two sides would cooperate closely in the future to make the alliance relationship even more robust.

Suh Wook and Austin also agreed to meet soon face to face to discuss various issues in greater depth.

“Secretary Austin underscored the US commitment to defend the ROK through both the US-ROK combined defense posture and the US extended deterrent,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement released on Jan. 23.

Moon’s phone call with Biden is likely to take place as soon as the logical details can be worked out. The Blue House said on Jan. 23 that Suh Hoon and Sullivan had agreed in their phone call on the “importance of quickly initiating communication between our countries’ leaders.”

During a phone call with a Hankyoreh reporter, a Blue House official said that the timing of Moon and Biden’s phone call “was still being arranged” and that the two sides were “trying to make [the phone call] happen soon.”

Moon and Biden spoke on the phone on Nov. 12, 2020, four days after Biden declared victory in the US presidential election.

“We reaffirmed our firm commitment to a robust ROK-US alliance and peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula. Going forward, I will work closely with him to meet global challenges including COVID-19 and climate change,” Moon wrote on Twitter after the phone call.

In their upcoming phone call, Moon and Biden are likely to underline the strength of the South Korea-US alliance and emphasize close cooperation on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a peace regime there.

Moon asked officials to “do their best to restart North Korea-US dialogue and inter-Korean dialogue so that the clock of peace can start ticking again” during a plenary session of the National Security Council on Jan. 21.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki fielded a question about the Biden administration’s North Korea policy during a press briefing on Jan. 22.

“We will adopt a new strategy to keep the American people and our allies safe. 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,” Psaki said.

By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer, Lee Wan, staff reporter, and Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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