Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Pyongyang and Plutonium

Last month the Biden administration launched a push to reach out to North Korea. Washington reached out to Pyongyang through several channels in an attempt to reduce any type of escalation in the near future, given the threat that North Korea poses. When the United States began attempting to make contact with the North Korean government one month ago, it had been over one year since any communication between the two countries.


Monday, however, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un made the first statement directed toward the Biden administration. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Asia to talk with Japan and South Korea, Kim Yo Jong’s statement was released. She said, “We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off (gun) powder smell in our land. If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.” The statement came before Blinken and Austin were scheduled to meet in Seoul. Kim Yo Jong also criticized the United States and South Korea for holding military exercises that recently began. North Korea has always viewed these exercises as an act of hostility.


The statement comes at an interesting time as officials await details regarding President Biden’s North Korea policy. Monday, White House Press Secretary said, “Diplomacy is always our goal. Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation.” However, many believe that Kim Jong Un will refuse for several reasons, including the recent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Additionally, recent satellite imagery indicates that North Korea has concealed a facility that U.S. intelligence agencies believe is being used to store nuclear weapons, and more recent images surfaced indicating that North Korea may be trying to extract plutonium to make more nuclear weapons at its main atomic complex. The continued expansion of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and recent threats from Kim Yo Jong will play a unique role in Biden’s North Korea policy and the future of U.S.-North Korea relations as a whole.  

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