Joe Biden faces ‘major problem’ as Kim Jong-un nuclear weapons war could kill ‘millions’

Joe Biden discusses North Korea threat during debate

With less than a month until Joe Biden’s inauguration, questions have been raised about how the next US president will approach relations with North Korea. Speaking to, Harry Kazianis Senior Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, said Mr Biden “has a major problem on his hands”.

He added: “North Korea is a full-fledged nuclear weapons state and it won’t ever give those weapons up short of a war where millions of people will die.

“At the same time, admitting he can’t get them to surrender their nukes is not something any US president will ever admit.”

Mr Kazianis explained that Mr Biden should try to create an arms control deal in which some sanctions are removed in return for a cap on the total size of Kim Jong-un’s nuclear arms along with a pledge from the North Korean leader to not expand.

He added: “That could be the basis of a deal where each side slowly trades concession after concession overtime until a normalised relationship is established.

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“At this point, while it isn’t denuclearisation, it’s something I think American can live with.”

North Korea has continued to ramp up its nuclear arsenal this year.

In October, Mr Kim unveiled a previously unseen long range ballistic missile which experts warned has the potential to reach the US.

The North Korean leader attended the military parade in Pyongyang which marked the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party where the huge missile was unveiled.

The event came just a few weeks before the US presidential election.

Although it is unclear when North Korea will test its new long range ballistic missile, experts highlighted how the event shows Mr Kim’s efforts to ramp up his nuclear force.

Cristina Varriale, a Research Fellow in Proliferation and Nuclear Policy at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, previously told “What the showcasing of these new nuclear systems does show us though, is that North Korea continues to work on developing its nuclear weapons programme.”

Mr Kazianis warned that if Mr Biden decides to take a tough stance on North Korea during his time in office, then Mr Kim could respond by testing missiles.

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He said: “If Biden comes out of the gate with a tough stance on North Korea I do think Pyongyang will do what they always done when faced with a challenge—respond with even more pressure and up the ante.

“Biden could very well try to get China onboard into a Maximum Pressure 2.0 strategy where Beijing actually enforces sanctions instead of allowing the Kim regime a lot of leeway.

“If that were to occur, North Korea will lash out in every way it can, most likely testing their new Hwasong-16 ICBM, the biggest road-mobile missile on the planet.”

However, Mr Kazianis did highlight how unless North Korea tests a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Mr Kim is unlikely to be a top priority for Mr Biden as he has other issues to tackle including the coronavirus pandemic and US economic recovery.

He added how the chances of a diplomatic breakthrough between the US and North Korea are low because Mr Biden “has too many other bigger challenges to deal with”.

America is the worst hit country in the world from the coronavirus with the highest death rates and number of COVID-19 cases.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Tracker, the US has recorded more than 18 million COVID-19 cases.

Mr Kazianis said: “COVID-19 is a once in a hundred-year sort of crisis that can’t be ignored, as Donald Trump learned the hard way.

“Biden must put all of his energies into mitigating that threat and the economic damage it has caused.

“The only question now is how will North Korea respond to not being a US priority for the foreseeable future? Not very well, if history is any guide.”

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