The recent visit to South Korea by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during the Quad “2+2” Security Dialogue brought up the issue of the North Korean nuclear threat. Whether the new U.S. administration will return to the game manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) more than four years ago, or completely abandon the CCP and face North Korea alone will involve the United States’ overall strategy against the CCP in deciding how to effectively resolve the North Korea nuclear crisis.
Blinken said at the U.S.-South Korea joint press conference that the Biden administration “plans to complete a North Korea policy review in the weeks ahead in close coordination and consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other key partners, including reviewing pressure options and potential for future diplomacy.”
This is pretty much saying that the new administration has no effective strategies specifically for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, just like there are no strategies to stop the coercion of the CCP. North Korea’s behavior demonstrated their recognition of this fact.
A few hours before the “2+2” dialogue, on March 18 Choe Son Hui, Pyongyang’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, released a statement saying that North Korea received multiple emails and phone calls from the Biden administration in February. She described it as a “cheap trick.”
On March 16, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned in a statement, “If [the United States] wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
This warning came after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the administration had reached out to North Korea through “a number of channels, as we always have had, that we can reach out through. But, to date, we have not received any response.”
Although Kim Jong Un did not congratulate Biden on taking office, North Korea can first observe the attitude of the new administration and can also communicate with the United States. Improving relations with the United States is North Korea’s greatest diplomatic aspiration. The United States extended an olive branch, but North Korea rejected it and even deliberately found fault. Logically, it was obviously unreasonable. The shadow of the CCP apparently appeared again.
The CCP had to work so hard to finally resume communication with the United States in Alaska. What else does North Korea have to worry about? Trump once gave Kim Jong Un the opportunity to meet directly, and North Korea also showed that it was unwilling to be a pawn of the CCP. This was considered a major breakthrough in diplomacy. North Korea has since restrained itself. Trump kept the CCP out of the loop and resolved the North Korean issue alone. Trump cracked the dual force between China and North Korea, and also vigorously counterattacked the CCP and decoupled from the CCP regime. Seeing this, North Korea was wise not to stand out along with the CCP, and consequently, the nuclear crisis from North Korea significantly cooled down.
After Biden took office, North Korea could have continued to observe, and the new U.S. administration’s initiative of a dialogue is also a good opportunity. Why is North Korea willing to go back to being the pawn of the CCP again? This is probably directly related to Biden’s China policy.
Beware the Consequences of the Old Path
Although Biden defined the CCP as the “most serious competitor,” he stopped Trump’s decoupling process from the CCP regime and continued to reverse Trump’s past tactics. For the time being, North Korea could not see the steps taken by the new U.S. government to forcefully counter the CCP. When North Korea sees that the United States is again resorting to the CCP for the North Korea issue, the chances of North Korea directly cooperating with the United States become slim. Consequently, everything returns to the old path, and North Korea will have to get closer to the CCP.
Psaki’s briefing confirmed North Korea’s judgment. When asked of the U.S.-China meeting in Anchorage what she’s looking for from China in terms of its response to North Korea, she said, “As we discuss security in the region, certainly the threats from North Korea are part of that and obviously that will be part of the discussion with the Chinese.”
At a joint press conference after the 2+2 talks between the United States and South Korea, Blinken also said, “China has a critical role to play in working to convince North Korea to pursue denuclearization … And I think it has a shared interest in making sure that we do something about North Korea’s nuclear program and about the increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program.” Blinken hopes that “China will use that influence effectively to work on moving North Korea to denuclearization.”
The U.S. government has made it clear that it does not intend to decouple from the CCP on the North Korean issue. In other words, the United States will allow the CCP to manipulate North Korea, which pushes North Korea to the CCP’s side. Seeing that the possibility of cooperating with the United States alone has gone, North Korea will only get close to the CCP again, and display a tough stand against the United States along with the CCP.
The South Korean government also realizes this. South Korean foreign minister Chung Eui-yong responded to the North Korea policy at the joint conference, saying, “Now the Singapore agreement, from the Korean government’s perspective, is a confirmation of fundamental principles to … resolve the U.S.-North Korea relations, establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, and denuclearization.”
South Korea was hoping that the Biden administration would continue Trump’s effective strategy. South Korea knows that North Korea cannot be truly friendly to South Korea. South Korea’s investment and assistance to North Korea can only make North Korean people appreciate South Korea. The huge gap between North Korea and South Korea will also break the propaganda lies of the Kim family. Kim Jong Un will not in any way be friendly with South Korea. This is the root cause of the hot and cold relations between North Korea and South Korea for many years. When Kim Jong Un was short on food, he pretended to cooperate, but immediately turned about-face after gaining benefits; the South Korean government can only continue to provide relief to North Korea in order to reduce the risk of war. After all, they cannot watch their compatriots continue to suffer from starvation.
Of course, South Korea knows that the CCP is behind the scenes, but the risk of war is too real. If North Korea was to bomb densely populated cities such as Seoul, there would be many casualties of innocent people. At the same time, South Korea cannot let go of the Chinese market easily. If the United States can abandon the CCP, communicate directly with North Korea, and solve the problem alone, South Korea will naturally appreciate it. This should be the greatest opportunity for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
I don’t think South Korea would expect the new U.S. administration to destroy the Chinese communist regime. Since the root problem cannot be resolved, South Korea can only hope that the United States will keep North Korea out of the reach of the CCP. Since the new U.S. administration has resumed contact with the CCP, South Korea naturally will not dare to move forward.
Even Stronger Anti-Communist Actions Necessary
In both meetings with Japan and South Korea, the CCP’s was condemned for its “aggressive and authoritarian” behavior, with Blinken inviting the U.S. allies to a “joint commitment to security.” But Blinken also emphasized that the CCP can play a role in persuading North Korea to denuclearize with its “tremendous influence,” which is the equivalent of letting a hooligan discipline a younger hooligan. The CCP gangsters are preparing to instigate North Korean gangsters to make trouble in exchange for bargaining chips with the United States, but the United States took the initiative of giving the bargaining chips to the CCP.
Similar policies toward North Korea by former President Barack Obama team proved ineffective. Therefore Trump changed strategy and completely ignored the CCP, a tactic that was effective. Now that the North Korean issue has returned to Biden’s hands, he seems to be continuing his old routine of cooperation with the CCP. It is bound to fall into the double trap of China and North Korea.
If the United States intends to unite its allies against the Chinese communist regime, it needs to show more powerful moves. Allies are looking up to the United States. If the United States cooperates with the CCP on the North Korean issue, what can South Korea and Japan do?
The United States needs to put aside the CCP, face North Korea alone, and relieve North Korea from the control of the CCP. Only then can the North Korean nuclear crisis be resolved. Of course, the United States still needs to take a two-pronged approach. Fight back against the Chinese communist regime so that its allies are more willing to cooperate with the United States, and North Korea is more likely to stay out of the control of the CCP and lean on the United States more.
If the United States can truly destroy the Chinese communist regime, not only will it completely eliminate the greatest security threat, but the North Korean issue will also be resolved, and the evils of the hooligan and his younger counterpart will disappear.
Whether the United States is willing to crack the dual forces of China and North Korea should also be a key step in the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Zhong Yuan is a researcher focused on China’s political system, the country’s democratization process, human rights situation, and Chinese citizens’ livelihood. He began writing commentaries for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times in 2020.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.