Mar 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration will host Japan and South Korea for North Korea discussions

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The White House will host security officials from Japan and South Korea in Washington, D.C., next week for “intensive consultations” on North Korea, senior Biden administration officials told reporters on Tuesday.

Driving the news: Officials acknowledged reports that North Korea performed a series of missile tests over the weekend, first reported by the Washington Post, but downplayed that news by calling it “normal military activity.”

  • The tests do not mean diplomacy with Pyongyang is off the table, per officials.
  • Calling this an "intensive period for Indo-Pacific diplomacy," the officials did not divulge any further details on the missile tests, like exactly how many missiles were tested. While acknowledging that such short-range systems are not covered by UNSC resolutions, the officials said they do not respond to every kind of test performed by North Korea.
  • National Security adviser Jake Sullivan will host his counterparts from Japan and South Korea.

Details: Biden administration officials said that engaging North Korea did come up during the first bilateral high-level meeting between the U.S. and China in Anchorage last week.

  • The U.S. will brief China on its approach to North Korea as it develops, but officials stressed that the priority is to first engage American allies.

What they’re saying: “We are under no illusions of the difficulty this task presents to us,” said one administration official. “We have a long history of disappointment in diplomacy with North Korea.”

  • Recently, Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, issued a warning in her first statement to the Biden administration. "If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step,” she said.
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