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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 3)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:04 May 03, 2021

Bumpy road ahead
:North Korea's harsh rhetoric dampens hope for dialogue

It is difficult to expect North Korea to return to dialogue anytime soon as the country is ramping up its rhetoric against the United States. It is disappointing to see the North trying to heighten tension on the Korean Peninsula, instead of making good on its denuclearization commitment.

On Sunday, Kwon Jong-gun, director general of the U.S. affairs department at the North's Foreign Ministry, denounced U.S. President Joe Biden for calling Pyongyang's nuclear program a "serious threat" ― he lashed out at Biden for making a "big blunder." His criticism came after Biden said in his first congressional address last Wednesday that the U.S. will work closely with its allies to address serious threats from North Korea and Iran through "diplomacy" and "stern deterrence."

Kwon even threatened to take corresponding measures against Washington. "The U.S. will face a 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and worse crisis beyond control in the near future if it is set to approach the DPRK-U.S. ties still holding on the outdated policy from a Cold War-minded perspective and viewpoint," he said. He and his country have apparently become angry with Biden's use of the expression "diplomacy and stern deterrence" which Kwon called a "spurious signboard for covering up its hostile acts" and a "means for posing nuclear threats" to the North.

But Kwon should realize it is not the U.S., but North Korea that still sticks to outdated thinking and policies. Refusing to keep its promise to denuclearize is certainly based on Cold War mentality. The North should explain why it has continued to boycott denuclearization talks since the second summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal in Hanoi in February 2019. Pyongyang should no longer pass the blame on to Washington.

Also regrettable is a separate statement issued by the North's Foreign Ministry which attacked the U.S. for criticizing its human rights record. It said the U.S. insulted the dignity of its supreme leader. This criticism was in response to a statement by U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price last week on the occasion of North Korea Freedom Week that the North is one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world. Yet the Kim regime should humbly accept what Price pointed out and stop trampling on the human rights of its people.

The North's harsh rhetoric came ahead of the U.S.'s plan to announce the results of its North Korea policy review, and the upcoming May 21 summit between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington. The Kim regime seems to be raising its objections to Biden's North Korea policy which will be different from his predecessor.

The U.S. said Saturday that it had completed the policy review. As White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted, Biden's policy will not focus on a "grand deal" sought by Trump nor will it rely on the "strategic patience" of the Obama administration. Biden is expected to take a practical approach based on diplomacy and deterrence. This could mean that he will not offer a generous package of incentives to the North before it takes substantive steps toward complete denuclearization. However, the North wants the U.S. to lift sanctions first. If both sides fail to narrow their differences, they cannot make any breakthrough. This will put the Biden administration to the test.
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