Biden Administration, South Korea announce clashing strategies on North Korea

As South Korean President Moon Jae-In nears the end of his term in May 2022, South Korea’s diplomacy goals appear to clash with US President Joe Biden’s Pyongyang strategy.

South Korea’s government appears at present to be pursuing a foreign policy strategy centered on reviving diplomatic relations between North and South Korea, while Washington DC’s current approach is based more on an effort to correct North Korea’s alleged human rights violations and denuclearization, as well as the defense of democracy.

Robert King, former special envoy for North Korea human rights issues during the Obama administration, told the Washington Post earlier this year, “We are not seeking a grand bargain or an all-or-nothing approach … South Korea is essentially in the same place as the United States.” King added,  “What we’ve settled on is what we think is a calibrated, practical approach to diplomacy with the North with the goal of eliminating the threat to the United States.”

The South Korean government solidifies its focus on diplomatic relations on its website, stating “making a political declaration of ending the war a starting point for peace negotiations,” according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s website.

In stark contrast, the Biden administration’s approach seems more centered between what the Brookings Institute calls the Trumpian “everything for everything” grand bargain with Pyongyang (involving total sanctions relief for complete and early denuclearization) and the Obama administration’s “nothing for nothing” posture of strategic patience.”

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