During Donald Trump's four years in the White House, the outgoing President struck up rather unique and controversial friendships with world leaders, including North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The dynamics between the two outlandish personalities led to unprecedented heights in dialogue on denuclearizing the regime, and even a random meet-up on the heavily fortified border that splits the two Koreas, although progress has stalled over differences in the negotiations.
With Joe Biden taking over as U.S. President, it's clear there won't be a flurry of bromance. Pyeongyang called the president-elect, a rabid dog last year, while Biden branded Kim Jong-un a thug.
Will the two sides be able to get their nuclear talks back on track, or will it be back to square one?
Today, we're joined by Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea specialist and reader of International Relations at Kings College London. Thank you for joining us again.
We also connect with Jenny Town, Fellow at Stimson and the Deputy Director of Stimson's 38 North, which provides policy and technical analysis on North Korea. It's great to see you.
1. Ramon: It's clear North Korea isn't exactly high up on Biden's agenda, and understandably so, as Americans are dealing with the global pandemic, an economic downturn, and contentious social issues. But N. Korea doesn't take kindly to being forgotten. Once Biden takes office, do you think North Korea will make sure his presidency starts with a bang?
Donald Trump fired his defense secretary Mark Esper and there's still another two months until Joe Biden takes office. Is there a chance that the North Koreans will initiate anything between that time?
2. Jenny: What are your thoughts on this, do you think the North is planning something to make sure they aren't forgotten?
3. Jenny: North Korea hasn't issued anything about Biden winning the election yet. Why do you think this is and what are they waiting for?
4. Ramon: Many believe Michelle Flournoy will become Biden's defense secretary, and she said last month that North Korea's nukes are now an issue of "risk management." Susan Rice, who is being touted as the next Secretary of State said in an op-ed in 2017 that the U.S. "can, if it must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way it tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War." Is it possible that the Biden administration might not even push for denuclearization? If so, how would this change the dynamics of their ties and negotiations?
5. Jenny: Do you think the Biden administration would push for denuclearization? Trump, at the time, needed a foreign policy victory but is Biden as motivated to strike a deal?
6. Ramon: It seemed that Kim Jong-un preferred having one-on-one talks with the U.S. President and didn't even want President Moon Jae-in chaperoning them. But when would such a meeting come about, and is Biden likely to involve more regional players in the discussion?
7. Jenny: There was some progress in improving ties between the U.S. and the North, including the post-Summit declarations committing to denuclearization, returning the bodies of fallen U.S. soldiers back to America, as well as some political statements to improve relations between the two Koreas. Do you think Biden will build on the agreements and trust established during Trump's presidency, or would he disregard these and approach the North differently?
8. Ramon: President Moon Jae-in says he'll do his best to ensure there's no gap in the Korean peace process and the Biden administration would offer "new opportunities" to improve inter-Korean ties. What kind of opportunities do you think he has in mind, and what do you think he'll have to do in the coming weeks to make sure the new U.S. gov't and the North don't start off on the wrong foot?
That's where we have to leave it.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Reader of International Relations at Kings College London and Jenny Town, Fellow at Stimson and the Deputy Director of Stimson's 38 North.
Thank you both for joining us.