On North Korea, Biden to chart his own course

He seeks a shift from Trump’s ‘grand bargain’, Obama’s ‘strategic patience’ approaches.

The White House says U.S. President Joe Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear programme, rejecting both Donald Trump’s deeply personal effort to win over Kim Jong-un and Barack Obama’s more hands-off approach.

Press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday that administration officials had completed a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, seen as one of the greatest and most vexing national security threats facing the U.S. and its allies. Ms. Psaki did not detail findings of the review, but suggested the administration would seek a middle ground between Mr. Trump’s “grand bargain” and Mr. Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.

“Our goal remains the complete de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula with a clear understanding that the efforts of the past four administrations have not achieved this objective,” Ms. Psaki told reporters on Air Force One as Mr. Biden travelled to Philadelphia.

The administration announced it would conduct the review soon after Mr. Biden took office in January. Ms. Psaki said officials consulted outside experts, allies and predecessors from several previous administrations as part of the process.

“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” she said.

Mr. Biden, like his old boss Mr. Obama, has confirmed that he sees North Korea as perhaps the most delicate foreign policy quandary for the U.S. and its allies. But Ms. Psaki’s comments suggest distancing from Mr. Obama’s dual-track policy that kept engagement open for its good behaviour while seeking to impose sanctions for its bad behavior.

The Biden administration also appeared to signal it is trying to set the stage for incremental progress, in which denuclearization steps by the North would be met with corresponding actions, including sanctions relief, from the U.S.

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