How Joe Biden Became John Bolton on North Korea

Daniel R. DePetris
Reuters

Daniel R. DePetris

Security, Asia

Biden appears to think diplomacy is a reward rather than a tool for solving problems with Pyongyang.

How Joe Biden Became John Bolton on North Korea

CNN’s Chris Cuomo had a direct question for Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner: as president, would you continue to talk with the North Koreans as President Trump has done? Or would you cut off the dialogue and go another way? 

Biden, who professes to know more about U.S. foreign policy than any of his Democratic competitors, had a ready answer. If Kim Jong-un wants to talk with the United States, then he should first demonstrate that he is serious about denuclearizing his country. “Look, you want to talk, you want to deal with us, you want sanctions lifted, show me something ahead of time,” the former vice president said in the July 5 interview. “Show me.” 

For a split second, you can be forgiven for thinking Joe Biden turned into John Bolton overnight. But Biden’s tough response is actually a continuation of the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” policy, which was centered on upgrading the U.S.-South Korea and U.S.-Japan alliance, sanctioning the North Korean economy, and waiting patiently until the Kim regime saw the light and decided to denuclearize. In a way, Obama and Biden’s strategic patience policy on North Korea operated on a similar wavelength as President Trump’s maximum pressure policy on Iran. Remove the Trumpian military brinkmanship and rants on Twitter and the two look virtually indistinguishable from one another. 

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