North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the United States is his nuclear-armed nation’s “biggest enemy”, state media reported Saturday, as he threw down the diplomatic gauntlet to the incoming administration of Joe Biden.
The declaration comes less than two weeks ahead of the new US president’s inauguration and after a tumultuous relationship between Kim and the outgoing leader Donald Trump.
Kim and Trump first engaged in a war of words and mutual threats, before an extraordinary diplomatic bromance that featured headline-grabbing summits and declarations of love by the US president.
But little substantive progress was made, with the process deadlocked after their February 2019 meeting in Hanoi broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
The North “should focus and be developed on subverting the US, the biggest obstacle for our revolution and our biggest enemy”, Kim told the five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, the official KCNA news agency reported.
“No matter who is in power, the true nature of its policy against North Korea will never change,” it quoted him as saying, without mentioning Biden by name.
“The check has come due on the Singapore and Hanoi Summits,” tweeted Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment. “And the Biden administration gets to pick up the tab.”
The change of leadership in Washington presents a challenge for Pyongyang, which has previously called Biden a “rabid dog”, while he characterised Kim as a “thug” during the presidential debates.
The US is expected to return to more orthodox diplomatic approaches under Biden, such as insisting on extensive progress at working-level talks before any leaders’ summit can be considered.
Kim “sees a stalemate that won’t change anytime soon”, said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest.
The process with Trump was brokered by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but Kim said Seoul was in breach of inter-Korean agreements and “and disregarding our warnings that it should stop joint military drills with the US”.