A senior official from the reclusive communist regime in North Korea issued a statement on Sunday saying that President Joe Biden “made a big blunder” in a recent speech to Congress by calling Pyongyang a security threat.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, Biden flagged the nuclear program in Iran and North Korea as “serious threats to American security.”
“On Iran and North Korea—nuclear programs that present serious threats to American security and the security of the world—we’re going to be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries through diplomacy, as well as stern deterrence,” Biden said.
Senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun issued a response to Biden on May 2 signaling that the North assessed Biden’s remarks as “hostile policy” and warned of “corresponding measures.”
“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 in a statement. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the communist nation.
“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder in the light of the present-day viewpoint,” Kwon said. “Now that the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”
The direct criticism of the U.S. commander in chief is a sharp departure from the state of play during the administration of President Donald Trump, who fostered an unprecedented relationship with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. Trump and Kim had several face-to-face meetings, including a brief encounter on North Korean soil, a first for a sitting American president.
The relationship showed promise, especially after the two leaders signed a mutual understanding agreement in which Kim committed to denuclearization and working towards peace with South Korea. But progress stalled for roughly two years after the two leaders could not agree on how the United States would lift sanctions in response to the North’s steps toward denuclearization.
The Biden administration said on Friday that it had completed a review of its policy toward North Korea. The statement indicated that Biden’s approach will seek a middle ground between Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.
In January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland, saying the fate of bilateral ties would depend on whether it abandons its hostile policy. In March, he conducted short-range ballistic missile tests for the first time in a year, though he still maintains a moratorium on bigger weapons launches.
“If Pyongyang agrees to working-level talks, the starting point of negotiations would be a freeze of North Korean testing and development of nuclear capabilities and delivery systems,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “If, on the other hand, Kim shuns diplomacy and opts for provocative tests, Washington will likely expand sanctions enforcement and military exercises with allies.”
Also Sunday, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed a strong, separate response to a recent State Department statement that it would push to promote “accountability for the Kim regime” over its “egregious human rights situation.” He called the statement a preparation for an “all-out showdown with us.”
Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, also slammed South Korea over anti-Pyongyang leaflets floated across the border by a group of North Korean defectors in the South. The group’s leader, Park Sang-hak, said Friday he sent 500,000 leaflets by balloon last week, in defiance of a new, contentious South Korean law that criminalizes such action.
She accused the South Korean government of “winking at” the leaflets. Seoul’s Unification Ministry responded later Sunday saying it opposes any act that creates tensions on the Korean Peninsula and it will strive to achieve better ties with North Korea.
Easley said the North Korean statements by Kwon and Kim Yo Jong show that “Pyongyang is trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States” ahead of the May 21 summit between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.