White House confirms it has reached out to North Korea through ‘channels’

The sister of North Korean leader, Kim Yo Jong, criticized ongoing military drills in South Korea and warned the new U.S. administration against ‘causing a stink’ if it wants peace, state news reported on Tuesday.

The statement came a day before America’s top diplomat and defense chief are due to arrive in Seoul for their first talks with South Korean counterparts.

‘We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,’ Kim said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA. ‘If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's influential sister slammed the US and South Korea on Tuesday, as the new US secretaries of state and defense began a visit to Tokyo and Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's influential sister slammed the US and South Korea on Tuesday, as the new US secretaries of state and defense began a visit to Tokyo and Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s influential sister slammed the US and South Korea on Tuesday, as the new US secretaries of state and defense began a visit to Tokyo and Seoul

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are travelling in Asia this week for foreign policy and security talks with allies in Japan and South Korea, among other stops.

The timing of Kim’s comments seems designed to ensure that North Korea will be at the top of Blinken and Austin’s agenda when they land in Seoul, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London.

‘Until now, the discussion was focusing on The Quad, dealing with China and the North Korea policy review,’ he said. ‘Now Kim’s statement will be central to discussions.’

North Korea has so far rebuffed entreaties from the United States to engage in dialogue, the White House said on Monday, as a chill in relations that began under then-President Donald Trump has extended into Joe Biden’s presidency.

It is the first explicit reference by the nuclear-armed North to a new president in Washington, more than four months after Joe Biden was elected to replace Donald Trump -- although it still did not mention the Democrat by name

It is the first explicit reference by the nuclear-armed North to a new president in Washington, more than four months after Joe Biden was elected to replace Donald Trump -- although it still did not mention the Democrat by name

It is the first explicit reference by the nuclear-armed North to a new president in Washington, more than four months after Joe Biden was elected to replace Donald Trump — although it still did not mention the Democrat by name

The White House confirmed Monday that the administration had reached out to North Korea through undisclosed ‘channels’ – but that the country has yet to respond.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has not received ‘any response’ despite the outreach, following a burst of contacts during the Trump Administration that was followed by a freeze at the end of Trump’s term.

‘So I can confirm that we have reached out. We obviously have a … number of channels as we always have had that we can reach through,’ she said.

‘Diplomacy is always our goal.  Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation,’ she said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday that the U.S. had reached out to North Korea through diplomatic channels but had not received a response

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday that the U.S. had reached out to North Korea through diplomatic channels but had not received a response

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday that the U.S. had reached out to North Korea through diplomatic channels but had not received a response 

But the effort has been fruitless so far. ‘To date we have not received any response,’ Psaki said at the White House. 

Describing the nature of the efforts, Psaki was vague, saying the U.S. is ‘focused on consulting with many former government officials who have been involved in North Korea policy – including from several prior administrations. And we have and will continue to engage with other Japanese and South Korean allies to solicit input, explore fresh approaches. We listen carefully to their ideas, including through trilateral consultations.’ 

Pressed on North Korea’s failure to respond, Psaki responded: ‘This follows over a year without active dialogue with North Korea, despite multiple attempts by the U.S. to engage. So diplomacy … continues to remain our first priority. We have, I think you can anticipate that there will be a continued expansion of engagement with partners and allies in the region.’

North Korea has not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach since mid-February by President Joe Biden's administration

North Korea has not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach since mid-February by President Joe Biden's administration

North Korea has not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach since mid-February by President Joe Biden’s administration

The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump's unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump's unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump’s unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

A confidential UN report found that Kim Jong-un's regime has maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300million stolen through cyber hacks

A confidential UN report found that Kim Jong-un's regime has maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300million stolen through cyber hacks

A confidential UN report found that Kim Jong-un’s regime has maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300million stolen through cyber hacks

 A senior administration official told Reuters Saturday that the U.S. reached out to  Pyongyang’s mission to the United Nations.

The so-far unsuccessful US outreach raises questions about how Biden will address mounting tensions with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It also comes as Biden’s new team contends with other holdover issues – including efforts to restart the Iran nuclear deal and manage a scheduled troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It also adds a new dimension to a visit America’s top diplomat and defense secretary will make next week to South Korea and Japan, where concerns over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal are expected to be high on the agenda.

The senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered few details on the diplomatic push. But the official said there had been efforts to reach out to the North Korean government ‘through several channels starting in mid-February, including in New York’.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump’s unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump’s efforts failed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

The Biden administration official said it appeared there had been no active dialog between the United States and North Korea for more than a year, including at the end of Trump’s administration, ‘despite multiple attempts during that time by the United States to engage’.

The US official declined to speculate about how the silence from Pyongyang would impact the Biden administration’s North Korea policy review, which was expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

During his election campaign, Biden described Kim as a ‘thug’ and said he would only meet him ‘on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity’.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held out the possibility of additional sanctions, in coordination with allies, to press North Korea to denuclearize.

Sanctions have so far failed to convince Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.

Blinken is slated to host the first face-to-face discussions between senior Biden administration and Chinese officials on March 18 in Alaska. The Trump administration accused China of failing to enforce sanctions against North Korea.

A confidential UN report found that North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300million stolen through cyber hacks.

The report by independent sanctions monitors said Pyongyang ‘produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure’ while continuing to seek material and technology for those programs from abroad.

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