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North Korean Weapons Are Likely Here to Stay, Even if Biden Won’t Say It


For months now, the Biden administration has been engaged in a North Korean strategy review, often in consultation with South Korea and Japan. But it has offered little detail in public about its conclusions, other than to avoid trying a grand bargain with Mr. Kim that Mr. Trump did. Instead of trying to wrap a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, the promise of a new relationship between Pyongyang and Washington, and a sweeping disarmament plan into one package, it will turn back to small, confidence-building steps.

If that seems like a familiar, step-by-step approach, it is — past presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, tried similar strategies. Agreements were reached, and sometimes facilities were destroyed — notably the cooling tower for a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which was blown up in front of CNN cameras. It was all for show — the facilities were rebuilt, and the North Koreans kept on producing nuclear material.

Mr. Moon’s meeting is the second in-person visit of a world leader to the White House. He was crucial in arranging the summits between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, and has continued to encourage dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. While at the White House, he is expected to reiterate those goals, while emphasizing with Mr. Biden a series of South Korean investments in the United States in semiconductors and batteries for electric cars — ways of deepening the technological alliance at a moment of heightened competition with China.

The result is that Mr. Biden is not likely to dwell much on North Korea, at least in public, Mr. Cha said.

“They will change the topic,” he said.

And officials in the Biden administration have made clear they are not interested in giving Mr. Kim the satisfaction of being the center of attention, as he was during his dramatic meetings with Mr. Trump in Singapore, in Hanoi, Vietnam, and at the Demilitarized Zone.

But the Biden White House has not thrown out all of Mr. Trump’s diplomacy.

The White House says it wants to build on the “Singapore declaration,” which called for a new relationship between the United States and North Korea, a permanent peace plan, complete denuclearization and a full accounting of soldiers missing in action from a war that ended nearly seven decades ago.



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