The Foreign Ministry of North Korea responded on Sunday, nearly a week later, to a passing reference President Joe Biden made to the country in his first speech to Congress as president, calling his words “intolerable.”
North Korea’s government-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published remarks by senior American relations diplomat Kwon Jong-gun in which he described Biden’s words as a “blunder” and a “slip of the tongue.” Given that Biden had allegedly threatened Pyongyang, Kwon argued, North Korea would have to retaliate and place the U.S. in a “very grave situation.”
North Korea and the United States have technically been at war since 1950, when the Korean War began. While active hostilities ended in 1953, no side ever signed a peace treaty. Tensions have remained high for decades, though Pyongyang has been notably quiet in its usual threats to America over the past year, which experts have attributed to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
North Korean authorities claim to have documented zero cases of Chinese coronavirus in the country since the pandemic began, despite the nation’s perilous location between the origin country of the virus, China, and other severely affected countries like South Korea, Russia, and Japan. Most political and public health experts believe that, in reality, North Korea’s dilapidated health system has faced near-collapse at the hands of the pandemic, prompting bizarre displays such as communist dictator Kim Jong-un apologizing amid tears to his people in a televised speech.
The communist regime has worked to give Biden minimal attention and notably did not mention him by name in the published Kwon statement.
“The U.S. chief executive in his first Congressional speech after his inauguration made a slip of tongue about the DPRK [North Korea] again,” Kwon wrote. “That he cited diplomacy and resolute deterrence, calling the DPRK a ‘serious threat’ to the security of the U.S. and the world, was what had already been anticipated as it is a usual story from Americans.”
“But intolerable is that the U.S. chief executive clarified his DPRK stand this way in his first policy speech,” Kwon emphasized. “His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the U.S. for over half a century.”
Elsewhere in the statement, Kwon accused the United States of “unprecedented vicious hostile policy and constant nuclear blackmail,” then pivoted to threats.
“The U.S. will face worse and worse crisis beyond control in the near future if it is set to approach the DPRK-U.S. ties, still holding on the outdated policy from Cold War-minded perspective and viewpoint,” Kwon concluded. “Now that what [sic] the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”
The North Korean missive appeared particularly aggressive given that Biden’s remark on the country in his speech to Congress was fleeting and vague. He did not even reserve a full sentence for North Korea, referring to its quest for nuclear weapons in the same breath as that of Iran.
“On Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs that present a serious threat to America’s security and world security — we will be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries through diplomacy and stern deterrence,” Biden said. The president did not mention North Korea at any other time in the speech.
Biden has actively struggled to engage North Korea since taking office in January. As vice president and before winning the 2020 election, Biden was the target of some of North Korea’s most scathing vitriol. In 2019, KCNA referred to Biden as a rabid dog and advised that he must “be beaten to death with a stick.”
KCNA has mentioned Biden’s name as the president of the country minimally. In March, Korean diplomats revealed that the Biden administration had repeatedly reached out to Pyongyang for dialogue but that the Kim regime had chosen to ignore it.
“The U.S. has tried to contact us since mid-February through several routes including New York,” First Vice-Minister of Reogin Affairs Choe Son-hui revealed. “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.”
“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,” Choe said. “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.”
The official dismissed talks with America as a “waste of time.”
Prior to the statement responding to Biden’s speech, KCNA published a separate Foreign Ministry commentary Sunday accusing the United States of having “inflicted unspeakable sufferings and pain on the people of the DPRK with unprecedented vicious hostile policy,” apparently in response to Washington participating in an event with various human rights groups. The statement did not specify the event; the State Department often works in cooperation with human rights NGOs.
“We have warned the U.S. sufficiently enough to understand that it will get hurt if it provokes us,” the Foreign Ministry threatened. “The U.S. will surely and certainly regret for [sic] acting lightly, defying our warnings.”
South Korea’s office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday it had not detected any unusual activity by the North Korean military following the threats to the United States.
“Our military is closely monitoring related activities and is maintaining a firm readiness posture,” a spokesman for the office said.
South Korean and American military observers have noted for months that North Korea’s armed forces have appeared unusually inactive since the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began.
General Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said in September that his sources believe much of North Korea’s military has been redirected to keeping its borders closed, particularly the porous border along the Yalu River with China, where most of the nation’s commerce occurs.
“They’ve got North Korean SOF [special operation forces] manning these things, strike forces; they’ve got shoot-to-kill orders in place, and this is fundamentally about preventing COVID [Chinese coronavirus] from getting into North Korea,” Abrams said in an interview at the time, adding the “reduction in tension is palpable” between North and South Korea.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) revealed Friday, citing anonymous sources within the country, that Pyongyang has begun to use soldiers to man failing industries, forcing them “to toil away in coal mines and construction sites right after they have completed their grueling mandatory 10-year stint in the military.” All young men in the country are forced into a decade of military service following secondary education.
“Soldiers are used as laborers for government projects or to harvest crops, with some even sent to work abroad to earn badly needed foreign currency for the country’s chronically empty coffers,” RFA revealed. “The military recently has also been told to solve its own supply and food shortages, forcing soldiers to turn to their families for food and funds for their decade-long military stint.”
“The veterans are furious, asking if their reward for 10 long years of hard work and sacrifice is just more work,” an unnamed source told the outlet. Government media inside the country are reportedly claiming publicly that the soldiers are “volunteering.”
Kim admitted in early April that North Korea was in its “worst-ever situation,” commanding senior officials to improve “people’s living standards.”