National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan responded to rebukes from Pyongyang by affirming that President Biden’s approach toward North Korea is “not aimed at hostility” but rather at “complete denuclearization.”
Sullivan reacted on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, hours after North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun issued a statement arguing that Biden’s address to Congress “reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward” North Korea and warning that the U.S. “will find itself in a very grave situation.”
“Our policy toward North Korea is not aimed at hostility, it’s aimed at solutions,” Sullivan told ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz. “It’s aimed at ultimately achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We’re prepared to engage in diplomacy towards that ultimate objective, but work on practical measures that can help us make progress along the way toward that goal.
“We believe, rather than all for all or nothing for nothing, a more calibrated, practical measured approach stands the best chance of actually moving the ball down the field towards reducing the challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear program,” Sullivan added.
Earlier Sunday, North Korea issued a series of statements targeting the United States and its ally, South Korea, Reuters reported. One statement, released via state news agency KCNA, warned that the U.S. was “girding itself up for an all-out showdown” by criticizing North Korea’s human rights record.
Kwon Jong Gun, director-general of the Department of U.S. Affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, referenced Biden’s comments during his first address to Congress Wednesday, when the president said North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs posed threats and would be met with “diplomacy and stern deterrence.”
“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,” Kwon said, and now that Biden’s approach is clear, North Korea “will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”
This comes after the White House first confirmed on Friday that the Biden administration has completed a months-long review of North Korean policy and will chart a different path than former President Donald Trump in an effort to end North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.
“I can confirm that we’ve completed our DPRK policy review, which was thorough, rigorous and inclusive,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Washington Post first reported Friday that the Biden administration wants to find a “middle” ground between Trump’s grand bargain strategy where he courted face-to-face diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jon Un and former President Barack Obama’s arms-length approach in which he withheld diplomacy until North Korea changed its behavior.
Psaki said Biden’s team consulted with outside experts and officials from “several previous administrations” to build on lessons learned.
“Our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, with a clear understanding that the efforts of the past four administrations have not achieved this objective,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. “Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience.”
Psaki said the Biden approach will “explore diplomacy” with North Korea in an effort to make “practical” progress toward achieving denuclearization and increasing the security of the United States and its allies.
The new approach is timely, as Biden is set to welcome South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the White House on May 21 to highlight their “ironclad alliance,” the White House said. Biden’s first in-person foreign leader invite went to another Asian ally, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The Washington Post first reported Friday that the Biden administration has decided to pursue a phased agreement with North Korea that leads to full denuclearization. Biden was briefed on the plan last week by Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the paper reported.
The Biden administration won’t throw out all of Trump’s work, the Post reported. They’ll keep in place Trump’s 2018 Singapore summit agreement in which Kim committed to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” in return for the U.S. providing “security guarantees” to North Korea. Both sides also pledged to “build a lasting and stable peace regime.”
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.