What’s next for US-DPRK ties?

WASHINGTON: In the lead up to a super tight U.S. election, the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is biding its time to see how things play out politically in the United States, experts have said.
Pyongyang is sitting back and watching the U.S. election, in a bid to determine whether the DPRK will have to work the next four years with President Donald Trump or whether Democratic candidate Joe Biden will come to the helm.
“At the moment, U.S.-North Korea (the DPRK) relations are in hibernation,” Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Washington-based non-profit Korea Economic Institute, told Xinhua. “Once the election has passed, that could change.”
Trump believed early in his administration that a close, personal relationship with top leader of the DPRK Kim Jong Un would form the basis of a policy change.
Trump has spoken fondly of Kim, remarking that Kim wrote Trump a series of “beautiful” letters, and held a series of summits with the DPRK leader, which ultimately failed to produce results.
If Trump wins re-election, it remains unknown if the U.S. president will continue to try to use his amiable relationship with Kim to change policy, as U.S.-DPRK ties have been on the back burner over the past six months, with the White House battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the desire to create a relationship with Kim is something new in decades of U.S. diplomacy, and will not likely repeat itself if Biden clinches the White House.
Experts argued that Trump’s 2018 and 2019 summits in Singapore and Hanoi have demonstrated that personality cannot substitute for policy in negotiating with Pyongyang.
Biden would be less involved on a personal level in dealing with Pyongyang than Trump, Douglas Paal, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told media.
Many of Biden’s advisers have argued for more concrete progress on the Korean Peninsula, and that would probably entail significant tactical difference, Paal said.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon told media that for his part, Kim knows it is too soon to have any talks prior to the U.S. election, but wants to move ahead with a relationship with whoever clinches the White House on Nov. 3.
If Biden is elected, some U.S. experts contended that the DPRK will follow what they said is Pyongyang’s tendency to test new U.S. presidents, but warned that such moves would be counter-productive.
“If former Vice President Joe Biden wins and North Korea (the DPRK) engages in its previous tactics to test a new administration, all that may be achieved is pushing back the possibility for progress,” Stangarone said, adding that this could not achieve much beyond delay.
At any rate, Paal said future U.S. administrations would need to adopt a more pragmatic and stage by stage approach to the denuclearization. “We will have to wait and see when the U.S. ceases to repeat that the president will not permit North Korea (the DPRK) to become a nuclear power and adjust to a more realistic policy,” Paal said.-Agencies