Great Britain

Biden must decide on North Korea strategy early, says top Obama-era diplomat

The incoming US administration will have to make an early decision on what approach it will take with North Korea, and not repeat the delay of the Obama era, a former US official who has advised President-elect Joe Biden has said.

Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for east Asia under President Barack Obama and seen as a contender for a senior position under Biden, said the administration he had served in began with a “rather prolonged period of study” on how to handle Pyongyang.

“One of the key challenges of Biden administration is the need to make an early decision about what to do with respect to North Korea,” Campbell said.

He said the period of delay during the Obama administration saw “provocative” steps by North Korea “that basically headed off any possibility of engagement.”

Campbell praised the “extraordinarily bold strokes” of President Trump’s Pyongyang diplomacy, which involved unprecedented summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, though so far there has been no progress in persuading him to give up nuclear weapons and missiles that threaten the US.

“When I talk about areas that I think we need to emulate or admire, I think some boldness is appropriate in American foreign policy, particularly in Asia,” Campbell said, while stressing the need to work closely with South Korea.

“Early signals to North Korea will be something that will be near the top of the list of the Biden team as they assume office,” he said.

While Kim has been unwilling to give up his weapons, he has conducted no nuclear or long-range missile tests since 2017. He has though shown off new weapons and there are fears he could resume tests to challenge the incoming US administration.

Biden, who was vice-president under Obama, called Kim a “thug” during the election campaign and said the “days of cozying up to dictators are over.”

Last year, North Korea called Biden a “rabid dog” that needed to be “beaten to death with a stick.”

Biden said in October he would only meet Kim “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity to get there. The Korean peninsula should be a nuclear free-zone.”

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