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The Nuclear Challenge- U.S. and North Korea

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May 04, 2021

What is the issue?

  • US President Biden’s recent remarks on North Korea’s nuclear programme and Pyongyang’s reaction for it has brought the issue back to the fore.
  • North Korea’s economic worries and the U.S.’s nuclearisation concerns need addressing.

What happened?

  • US President Joe Biden called for “stern deterrence” in response to North Korea’s nuclear programme.
  • Pyongyang made an angry reaction, accusing the Biden administration of being “hostile.”
  • These suggest that both countries are headed towards a diplomatic showdown.

How has the US dealt with N. Korea’s nuclear policy?

  • North Korea has remained an unresolved foreign policy puzzle for all post-War American Presidents.
  • In recent times, U.S. Presidents have shown a willingness to diplomatically engage with Pyongyang.
  • The Clinton administration had signed a framework agreement with Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme.
  • Mr. Obama had initiated talks with North Korea in 2012, which collapsed after Pyongyang launched a satellite.
  • He then adopted a wait-and-watch approach, which came to be called “strategic patience”.
  • Mr. Trump altered his predecessor’s North Korea policy by reaching out to the regime and meeting its leader, Kim Jong-un, thrice, but without a breakthrough.
  • In theory, the Trump administration and North Korea had agreed to a complete de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but failed to agree on its formula.

What has North Korea’s stance been?

  • In the 2019 Trump-Kim summit at Hanoi, the U.S. proposed removal of sanctions for de-nuclearisation, but North Korea rejected it.
  • Pyongyang had taken a phased approach and sought sanctions removal in return.
  • Ever since, there has been no improvement in ties.
  • After Mr. Biden assumed office, North Korea had conducted short-range missile tests, which the U.S. saw as a provocation.

What is Biden’s stance at present?

  • Mr. Biden is likely to steer between Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” and Donald Trump’s top-level summitry in dealing with the North Korean nuclear challenge.
  • In his first congressional address, Biden said the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea posed a “serious threat to America’s security and world security.”
  • He promised to respond through “diplomacy and stern deterrence”.
  • His administration has also completed a review of the U.S.’s North Korea policy.

What is the best way forward for Biden?

  • Mr. Biden does not have many good options in dealing with North Korea.
  • The U.S.’s key goal in northeastern Asia is the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
  • The only practical way to achieve this is through diplomacy because a military strike on North Korea, a nuclear power, is out of the question.
  • Though the Trump-Kim summits did not lead to any breakthrough, they have still created a diplomatic momentum for engagement.
  • Despite its threats to expand its nuclear programme, North Korea sticks to the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests.
  • The North, as acknowledged by Mr. Kim recently, is going through a tough economic crisis and is open to talks.
  • So, Mr. Biden should seize this opportunity and try to reach common ground with Mr. Kim.
  • This should address both North Korea’s economic worries and the U.S.’s nuclear concerns.


Source: The Hindu

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