State Dept: US is 'Ready to Meet With North Korea Without Preconditions'
19:02 GMT 04.10.2021 (Updated: 20:26 GMT 04.10.2021)
© AP Photo / Vincent YuPeople take pictures in front of a poster featuring the upcoming second summit between the U.S. and North Korea in Hanoi, Vietnam
© AP Photo / Vincent Yu
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration was prepared to begin talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) without preconditions - a sharp change of approach from that touted by US President Joe Biden during his election campaign.
"We are coordinating closely with allies, including in the Indo-Pacific ... We are also ready to meet with North Korea without preconditions," Price said.
Price's comments come a day after Japan's new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said the same. It also comes amid a new rapprochement between North and South Korea, which opened their inter-Korean hotline for communication for the first time in two months and made overtures for talks on declaring an end to the war that began in 1950 and technically never ended.
While a ceasefire was signed in 1953, which established the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas and resulted in 28,000 US troops being stationed in the South. No permanent peace treaty has ever been signed, meaning that a state a war still exists between the DPRK on one side and South Korea and the US on the other.
A willingness by Washington to meet North Korean diplomats without preconditions is a reversal from how Biden said he would relate to the small socialist country.
During a televised debate in October 2020 against then-US President Donald Trump, then-candidate Biden sharply criticized his willingness to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions.
“What has he done? He’s legitimized North Korea. He’s talked about his good buddy who’s a thug, a thug,” Biden said at the time, adding that he would only sit down and talk with Kim "on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity.”
He has also previously criticized Trump's willingness to meet with Kim as an equal, which he did during summits in Singapore and Hanoi. In response, the DPRK's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Biden "bereft of elementary quality as a human being" and a "rapid dog" who must be "beaten to death with a stick" before he can hurt others.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday the administration's "goal, of course, remains complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain prepared to meet with DPRK without preconditions. In our messages we have made specific proposals for discussion with DPRK. We hope DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. But at this point we have not had a response."
She added the White House "support[s] and continues to support inter-Korean dialogue and engagement and cooperation and will continue to work with our ROK [Republic of Korea] partners to that end," but that the US "condemns any illicit missile launches with are destabilizing to the region and to the international community." Pyongyang tested two new missiles last week - one an advanced new surface-to-air missile and the other a hypersonic glide vehicle.
The DPRK detonated its first nuclear weapon in 2006 after a decades-long effort to develop one autonomously. The United States has imposed catastrophic sanctions on North Korea's economy, blocking it from obtaining many items from fuel to medical equipment or exporting coal or other products, all with the goal of forcing the DPRK to give up its nuclear weapons and associated ballistic missile programs. Pyongyang has said it has a right to self-defense and that without a permanent peace treaty, it needs those weapons to guarantee its security against US attack.
In 2018, Pyongyang voluntarily and indefinitely suspended both its nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile programs and has only conducted tests of short-range weapons not limited by UN resolutions.