A day after President Biden’s envoy for North Korea said the US was ready for negotiations with Pyongyang, Western media was full of misleading headlines that said Kim Yo Jong, the sister of leader Kim Jong Un, dismissed the idea.
US envoy Sung Kim said the Biden administration was willing to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, anytime without preconditions.” But Kim Yo Jong responded to different comments from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and her statement, which is open to interpretation, does not rule out future talks with the US.
Last week, Kim Jong Un said he was prepared for “dialogue or confrontation” with the Biden administration. On Sunday, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the North Korean leader’s comments were an “interesting signal.”
Responding to Sullivan, Kim Yo Jong released a statement Tuesday. The full statement reads: “I heard the news that the US National Security Advisor had mentioned that he regards the position towards the US as an ‘interesting signal,’ which the Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea clarified this time.
“A Korean proverb says that ‘In a dream, what counts most is to read it, not to have it.’ It seems that the US may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek a comfort for itself. The expectation, which they chose to harbour the wrong way, would plunge them into a greater disappointment.”
In full context, it’s clear the statement was some sort of shot at the US, but it makes no mention of the US envoy’s offer for talks and does no dismiss the idea of negotiations. Regardless, The Associated Press ran a headline that was widely reprinted that said, “Kim sister derides US official, dismisses chances for talks.”
While Sung Kim’s comments of talks “anywhere, anytime” sound welcoming, the US is still calling for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and continues to enforce sanctions against North Korea. The calls for denuclearization without offering any sanctions relief upfront is likely a non-starter for talks with Pyongyang since it gives them no incentive to give up their nuclear weapons. It’s possible Kim Yo Jong was hinting that the US must make more concessions before talks, but again, her statement is open for interpretation.