A top North Korean diplomat confirmed in a public statement Wednesday that the administration of President Joe Biden has repeatedly attempted to contact Pyongyang and North Korean officials have deliberately ignored it.
Choe Son Hui, first vice minister of Foreign Affairs, asserted North Korea’s communist regime does not “think there is need to respond to the U.S.” at the moment and vowed dictator Kim Jong-un would never meet with an American president again, as he did with President Donald Trump on two occasions. Choe’s letter described Biden’s policy towards North Korea as “lunatic” and insisted North Korean officials would not speak to American counterparts unless Washington lifted sanctions on the regime.
Under Trump, the United States led a charge at the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea for its last illegal nuclear weapons test, which took place in 2017. The Trump administration convinced the Council, including North Korea’s closest ally China, to impose the strictest sanctions on Pyongyang in history, severely limiting its economic growth.
While multiple reports indicated China was illicitly allowing trade across the North Korean border, Kim Jong-un acknowledged in remarks this year that North Korea’s economy was in shambles and scolded officials for failing to find ways to circumvent sanctions enough to expand the nation’s financial reach. A United Nations report obtained by Reuters in February revealed evidence suggesting North Korea generated as much as $300 million in 2020 through global cyberattacks targeting “financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses,” but it appears not to have been enough to offset years of strict global sanctions.
“The U.S. has tried to contact us since mid-February through several routes including New York,” Choe said in the statement published Wednesday through North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). “It recently requested to contact us by sending e-mails and telephone messages via various routes. Even in the evening before the joint military drill it sent a message imploring us to respond to its request through a third country.”
Reuters first reported, citing an anonymous source in the Biden administration, that the White House had indeed attempted on multiple occasions to reach out to Pyongyang, beginning in mid-February. North Korean state media, the only media legally available in the country, had not yet at the time mentioned America had a new president, save in a passing remark in an article on the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
“To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang,” the unnamed official told Reuters this weekend. Like Choe, the official mentioned attempts through the United Nations in New York to contact the communist regime.
Choe described responding to America as a “waste of time” unless Washington took proactive measures to remove sanctions on the regime. The sanctions are in place in response to North Korea building an illegal nuclear weapons program, which it has done nothing to dismantle save for a mostly performative explosion at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in 2018.
“We have already declared our stand that no DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. contact and dialogue of any kind can be possible unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK,” Choe insisted. “Therefore, we will disregard such an attempt of the U.S. in the future, too.”
“If the U.S. wants so much to sit even once with us face to face, it has to drop its bad habit and adopt a proper stand from the beginning,” the statement continued. “It had better drop the cheap trick by which it tries to use the DPRK-U.S. contact as a means for gaining time and building up the public opinion.”
Choe ominously vowed to “keep tabs” on the Biden administration’s “ill deeds” and asserted Kim would not meet with any future U.S. presidents without fundamental changes in the status quo.
Choe’s is the second government statement out of Pyongyang since the initial Reuters article revealing the Biden administration’s failed overtures to North Korea. The first was a statement attributed to Kim Yo-jong, dictator Kim’s sister, whom the regime appears to have tasked with the most threatening and belligerent remarks out of the country.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo-jong wrote in a statement published in North Korean state media Monday. “If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
Kim notably did not name Biden in the statement.
Elsewhere in the remarks, Kim urged South Korea to end its “ridiculous, impudent, and stupid” military exercises.
South Korea and North Korea are technically at war, though active hostilities ended in 1953. The United States and China participated in the Korean War on the sides of the South and the North, respectively, so are still also technically embroiled in the conflict to this day.