North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un told members of his ruling communist Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on Thursday to prepare for “both dialogue and confrontation” with the United States given the nature of the administration of President Joe Biden.
North Korea spent much of 2021 ignoring the Biden administration entirely, despite the White House confirming that it had repeatedly attempted to make contact with North Korean diplomats to no avail. Kim’s call to prepare for “confrontation” occurred during a session on the third day of an ongoing “plenary meeting” of the communist party, the only legal one in the country, in which Kim had previously noted that the nation’s entire agricultural sector had “failed” and urged officials to work harder to prevent famine.
Kim has publicly warned for months of such an outcome, blaming extreme lockdown measures imposed to prevent Chinese coronavirus cases and significant flooding damaging farmland nationwide last summer. North Korea claims it has documented zero coronavirus cases within its borders, a statistic many international public health experts doubt.
Kim’s admission that Pyongyang was overseeing a dire economic situation leaves open the question of how he expects his officials to prepare for a confrontation against the world’s most powerful country.
Speaking on Thursday, Kim “made detailed analysis of the policy tendency of the new U.S. administration toward our Republic,” according to the regime-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The dictator, the outlet went on to say, “clarified appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction and direction of activities to be maintained in the relations with the U.S. in the days ahead.”
KCNA did not offer any insight into what Kim believed the “appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction” should be.
“The General Secretary [Kim Jong-un] stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation,” KCNA relayed, “especially to get more fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development and to reliably guarantee the peaceful environment and the security of our state.”
Elsewhere in his remarks Thursday, Kim once again emphasized the need for rapidly fading food security in the country, especially for children.
“He warmly said that if the children who are born and grow up on this land are well fed and raised healthily in good environment from their childhood,” KCNA reported, “so much vibrant vitality and vim will overflow our society after 20 or 30 years and the national power of the Republic will grow and gain in strength.”
The South Korean news service Yonhap observed on Friday that Kim’s remarks, while lacking detail, were the first official statements attributed to the dictator referencing the Biden administration at all since it took office in January. Yonhap quoted South Korean experts who noted that the comments appeared to lack open criticism, which they expressed optimism about.
“The North appears to have decided on the direction toward resuming talks with the U.S. within a broad framework, though it is likely to discuss with China the timing and scope,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told Yonhap.
The Biden administration initially made multiple attempts to contact North Korean diplomats to no avail. In March, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui issued a public statement confirming Pyongyang was ignoring those attempts and did not “think there is a need to respond to the U.S.”
“The U.S. has tried to contact us since mid-February through several routes including New York,” Choe said through KCNA, calling any engagement with Washington a “waste of time.”
“We will disregard such an attempt of the U.S. in the future, too,” Choe promised.
Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – considered one of the most powerful people in North Korea and a potential successor to the dictator – issued a separate statement shortly thereafter threatening Biden to avoid “causing a stink” if he “wants to sleep in peace for coming [sic] for years.” Kim did not identify any action by the Biden administration as prompting her statement.
The Biden administration has not made any notable moves on North Korea policy since then, so America’s stance towards the repressive regime remains essentially the same as it was under President Donald Trump. Biden’s State Department has promised a comprehensive review of that stance and potential changes in some undetermined future.
Kim Jong-un has spent the previous quiet months emphasizing the need to address what increasingly appears to be a dire food emergency in the country.
“The subjective and objective conditions and environment for the revolutionary struggle have become worse upon entering this year,” Kim Jong-un admitted on Monday. “Saying that in particular, the people’s food situation is now getting tense as the agricultural sector failed to fulfill its grain production plan due to the damage by [the] typhoon last year, he stressed that the plenary meeting should take a positive measure for settling the problem.”