Blinken presents new North Korea approach as G7 meets in person

At G7 meet, U.S., Japan and S. Korea agree to work ‘towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’

Updated - May 03, 2021 10:33 pm IST

Published - May 03, 2021 09:21 pm IST - London

Balancing act: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with S. Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in London.

Balancing act: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with S. Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in London.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday opened the Group of Seven’s first in-person talks in two years by presenting the new administration’s new approach on North Korea, which has already denounced it.

With COVID-19 raging in India but increasingly coming under control in the West, Britain welcomed Foreign Ministers of the club of wealthy democracies in London to discuss a post-pandemic agenda and prepare for a G7 summit in southwest England next month.

India, South Korea, South Africa and ASEAN bloc chair Brunei were invited as guests to the three days of talks, which will also address rising tensions with Russia and China as well as diplomacy to revive a nuclear accord with Iran.

Amid stringent anti-pandemic measures, including restrictions on movements, Mr. Blinken met separately at his hotel with the Foreign Ministers of Japan and South Korea days after President Joe Biden completed a review on North Korea policy.

“We are grateful to have this opportunity to have in-depth discussions with the U.S. after the conclusion of your policy review,” South Korean Chung Eui-yong said, as he welcomed the “very positive and open message” by Mr. Biden in his address to Congress last week.

The State Department said that Mr. Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi “shared their concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes” in their meeting.

They agreed to work together along with Japan’s sometime rival South Korea “towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” a statement said.

Mr. Biden ordered an assessment of North Korea policy after his predecessor Donald Trump’s unusual, highly personalised diplomacy that featured three made-for-television meetings with the totalitarian state’s young leader Kim Jong-un.

Middle ground

The review proposed a middle ground by moving away from Mr. Trump’s ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful bid to reach a far-reaching agreement that, after seven decades, could finally bring an official end to the Korean War.

But the White House also said it would engage with North Korea, a shift from former President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” — or, keeping Pyongyang at arm’s length until its behaviour changes.

“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, while acknowledging that successive administrations have failed to achieve the goal of ending North Korea’s nuclear programme.

North Korea on Sunday denounced Mr. Biden approach, saying he was keeping a “hostile policy” in place for more than half a century.

“The U.S.-claimed ‘diplomacy’ is a spurious signboard for covering up its hostile acts, and ‘deterrence’ touted by it is just a means for posing nuclear threats to the DPRK,” Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun said.

U.S. officials largely expected a strident reaction from North Korea, which is known for its colourful statements, including in 2019 describing Mr. Biden as a “rabid dog” who “must be beaten to death with a stick”.

A welcoming dinner for the G7 Foreign Ministers will address both North Korea and Iran.

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