Amid renewed speculation over Kim Jong Un's health and especially the growing food crisis in his country, the US special envoy for North Korea on Monday made a rare diplomatic overture for the first time under the Biden administration, saying he hoped leaders in Pyongyang would be willing to meet for talks "anytime, anywhere".
"We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach and our offer to meet anywhere, anytime, without preconditions," US Special Envoy Sung Kim said of nuclear talks which collapsed or at least were put on indefinite "pause" by the last year of the Trump administration.
"We will also urge all UN member states, especially UN Security Council members, to do the same, to address the threat posed to the international community by the DPRK," he continued in the Monday comments.
The ambassador's words came days after Kim Jong Un ordered his government to get "prepared for confrontation" with the United States, according to state media last Friday:
Kim "stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state" and ensure national security, it said.
In Sunday news talk shows national security advisor Jake Sullivan reemphasized the Biden White House policy of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which Pyongyan has consistently rebuffed given there's no corresponding offer of sanctions relief.
Sullivan told ABC News: "His comments this week we regard as an interesting signal and we will wait to see whether they are followed up with any kind of more direct communication to us about a potential path forward." He added: "The clear signal they could send is to say 'yes, let's do it. Let's sit down and begin negotiations.'"
Extensive flood damage from last year, as well as the prolonged pandemic and international sanctions, have led Kim Jong-un to issue a rare warning about a “tense” food situation in the isolated country. https://t.co/TYdt2OMlMF— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) June 16, 2021
However, it remains that without any sanctions relief incentives on the table, North Korea is likely to see such overtures for "dialogue" as a non-starter, as geopolitical commentator Dave DeCamp notes of the prior administration's approach, which at least got the two sides to the table: "A more realistic approach that was entertained by the Trump administration would be an offer to lift some sanctions in exchange for a freeze in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program."