Unnamed alleged officials in the administration of President Joe Biden confessed to Reuters this weekend that attempts to communicate with the communist regime of North Korea since Biden took office have been met with silence.
Reuters, citing the officials, claimed the Biden administration used several traditional “behind-the-scenes” avenues to reach out to dictator Kim Jong-un in an attempt to rekindle diplomatic talks, but Pyongyang did not respond to any of them. Since Biden’s inauguration, North Korean state media — often the only metric for gauging regime sentiment in the highly secretive country — has largely ceased referring to the United States in general, outside of its typically belligerent attacks in columns about the still ongoing Korean War. One state media outlet, the relatively obscure DPRK Today, has referred to Biden as president, but the two biggest outlets — the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) — have not done so.
Prior to his presidency, state media routinely attacked Biden as a “dotard” and enemy of Pyongyang. In one particularly severe condemnation, KCNA urged the American people to kill Biden, addressing him as a “rabid dog.”
In contrast, the North Korean state appeared more cooperative with Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump. Trump met with Kim Jong-un in person on two occasions — the first sitting American president to hold a summit with a North Korean dictator — and maintained regular communication with the regime. The talks yielded no significant policy achievements, but North Korea ceased its nuclear weapons testing after the Trump administration led an international sanctions campaign in response to its last test in 2017.
North Korea performed four nuclear weapons tests — most of its six known tests — during Biden’s tenure as vice president.
The United States and North Korea are technically at war, as active hostilities in the Korean War ended through an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty. South Korea and China, respectively, are the other two parties to that war.
In an attempt to continue the momentum created during the Trump years, Biden administration diplomats have attempted to open lines of communication with North Korea but, Reuters reported this weekend, have failed. An unnamed “senior Biden administration official” revealed the federal government began outreach in mid-February and that at least one of the avenues used to contact Pyongyang was its delegation to the United Nations, headquartered in New York.
“To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang,” the anonymous source said. The source added that Biden officials believe the North Koreans had cut communications with Trump, as well.
The report preceded Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s departure from the United States for a tour of Asia that has stops scheduled in Japan and South Korea, America’s closest allies in handling North Korea tensions.
“The State Department has said the secretaries will discuss a wide range of regional and global issues while visiting the two key U.S. allies in Asia, including how to deal with North Korea,” South Korean news service Yonhap reported. “The U.S. is currently undergoing a comprehensive review of its North Korea policy that it says will create a new and different approach toward the North from those in the past.”
Sung Kim, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters this weekend that the tour was necessary for Blinken to have a full understanding of the points of view in Seoul before moving forward with an announced overhaul of the American policy towards North Korea. Kim did not mention reports of North Korea refusing to address American diplomats. The State Department has not formally commented on the report.
The only indication that North Korean citizens have of a change in the White House came from the DPRK Today report in late January, which only mentioned Biden in the context of explaining the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“The U.S. Congress failed to declare Biden as the president on this day [January 6] and had to confirm Biden as the winner the following day,” DPRK Today reportedly told readers.
All foreign and independent or non-state media outlets are illegal in North Korea, meaning citizens do not have access to any information the government did not publish.
Aside from that passing mention, some observers speculated a comment Kim Jong-un made in early January indicated a preference to open diplomatic ties with Biden. Kim suggested the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the ruling communist party, should work towards “comprehensively expanding and developing the external relations.” While some observers, particularly left-leaning publications in South Korea, interpreted this as a nod to Biden, Kim did not mention any foreign country in particular and Pyongyang has not made any overtures following this statement.
The Kim regime’s attitude towards Biden, when mentioning him in state media, has not given any indication that it sees in him a potential diplomatic partner. Much of North Korea’s vitriol towards Biden escalated in 2019, as the American presidential race heated up. That spring, KCNA published a commentary calling Biden an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being” and a “fool of low IQ.”
By November, North Korea was calling for Americans to kill Biden.
“Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about,” a state media commentary suggested, using invective typically reserved for South Korean conservatives. “They must be beaten to death with a stick.”
Elsewhere, the commentary referred to Biden as a “profiteer … wandering about like a starving wild dog” and a “dotard maniac.”
“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?'” Trump responded in 2017 to one of the several references to him as a “dotard.”
At 37, Kim Jong-un is one of the world’s youngest world leaders, a factor likely inspiring the frequent insults of foreign adversaries as old.