Biden’s North Korea strategy under scrutiny following top US nuclear envoy’s resignation

Jung Pak, then-senior U.S. official for North Korean policy, speaks during a meeting between top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States and Japan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, Jan. 18. Pak recently stepped down from her position, according to the U.S. Department of State. Korea Times photo by Wang Tae-seok

The U.S. Joe Biden administration’s lack of engagement with North Korea has come under fresh scrutiny following the resignation of its top nuclear envoy without an immediate appointment of a successor, according to diplomatic observers Thursday.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Jung Pak, senior official for North Korean policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, recently stepped down.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a briefing on Tuesday that he did not have any additional personnel announcements following Pak’s resignation.

He added that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Dan Kritenbrink would continue to oversee North Korea policy, while Seth Bailey, director for the Office of Korean and Mongolian Affairs, would remain as the deputy special representative for North Korea.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said Thursday that Bailey is expected to act as the U.S. counterpart to Seoul’s top nuclear envoy, Lee Jun-il, director-general for Korean Peninsula policy.

Pak assumed her position at the end of 2023 following her predecessor Sung Kim. Notably, she was given the title of “senior official,” differing from Kim’s title of “special representative.” This distinction had raised speculation about whether the Biden administration is reducing its focus on the North Korean issue.

Harry Kazianis, senior director of national security affairs at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington-based think tank, said that the absence of an immediate successor to Pak shows that “North Korea is not an important issue for Biden.”

“Even though I give Washington and Seoul high praise for building up the alliance over the Biden presidency, Team Biden has done 커뮤니티 little to stop North Korea’s missile and nuclear program from getting ever more dangerous,” Kazianis told The Korea Times in an email.

The U.S. expert did not anticipate major ramifications in this stance, as the Biden administration does not consider North Korea an important foreign policy priority.

He said, “(Biden officials) have done little to press Russia or China to enforce sanctions, and, in fact, President Biden has never even given a major address on the North Korea issue itself as the exclusive topic of his remarks, something strange when you consider how dangerous the North Korea’s missile and nuclear program have become … He appears to accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state and sees very little he can do about it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *