Korean Leader's Sister Warns U.S. as Biden Envoys Begin Asia Trip

North Korea unresponsive to behind-the-scenes Biden administration outreach

The administration of US President Joe Biden has been undergoing a comprehensive review of his country's policy toward North Korea, leaving open the possibility of additional sanctions.

Kim Yo Jong's statement on Tuesday was issued as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.

Kim Yo Jong, a senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs, also criticized the US and South Korea for holding military exercises.

She said North Korea would consider pulling out of an inter-Korean military agreement aimed at reducing tensions along their shared border, and would review whether to dissolve several organisations aimed at cooperation with the South.

In a joint statement, the USA and Japanese officials called again for "the complete denuclearisation of North Korea" - a phrase that is anathema to Pyongyang, which prefers the broader and more ambiguous "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

She also warned the new USA administration that if "it wants to sleep in peace" for the next four years, "it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step", in the statement carried by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun. "If they want to have a good night's sleep for the next four years, it would be good for them not to do things that would prevent them from sleeping properly from the start".

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 Mr Joe Biden's presidency.

The senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered few details on the diplomatic push.

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"The Kim regime's rhetoric leaves more room for diplomacy than if it had welcomed Blinken and Austin with a long-range missile test", said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. Denuclearization negotiations between North Korea and the United States have been stalled since 2019.

Trump's unorthodox approach to foreign policy saw him trade insults and threats of war with Kim Jong Un before an extraordinary diplomatic bromance that saw a series of headline-grabbing meetings.

While Mr. Kim has vowed to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in recent political speeches, he also has said the fate of USA relations depends on Washington's actions. Still, despite three in-person meetings and the slew of "beautiful letters" that Donald Trump received from the North Korean leader, the "historic" talks led nowhere - and ultimately left allies South Korea and Japan wondering whether they could count on U.S. protection as Pyongyang repeatedly threatened them in word and deed.

The "New York channel" is a reference to the North's mission to the United Nations, as Pyongyang and Washington do not maintain diplomatic relations. The computer-simulated drills were held in a scaled down manner this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and did not involve outdoor maneuvers.

But Ms Kim said even the smaller drills are an act of hostility toward the North.

Shortly before Biden's January inauguration, leader Kim decried the United States as his country's "foremost principal enemy" and Pyongyang unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile at a military parade.

"War rehearsals can not coexist with dialogue, hostility can not coexist with cooperation", she said.

In response, South Korea's Defense Ministry stressed that the combined military exercise is "defensive" in nature and urged Pyongyang to take a "flexible stance" on the inter-Korean military agreement.

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