Biden said that for a meeting to occur, his administration would have to “know exactly” what would be discussed, drawing a contrast with Trump’s free-wheeling approach to international relations with both America’s allies and enemies. In March, Biden said North Korea was the top foreign policy issue facing the United States.
Biden also announced Friday that he was appointing Sung Kim to be a special envoy to North Korea, saying that the U.S. was willing to engage diplomatically. Kim previously served as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Obama administration.
In the press conference, Biden also pledged some 550,000 South Korean soldiers who are in “close contact” with American military members would get Covid-19 vaccinations.
“Both for their sake as well as the sake of the American forces,” Biden added. “We, with advanced capabilities, have an obligation to do everything we can to provide for protection of the entire world.”
Trump has previously defended his actions with North Korea, claiming former President Barack Obama was “so close to starting a big war with North Korea.” Obama had told Trump that North Korea should be his top national security priority.
Trump met with Kim three times in person during his presidency, including a 2019 trip to North Korea when he became the first sitting U.S. president to make such a trip. Trump’s efforts with Kim, which included touting what he called a “beautiful letter” from the leader, ultimately failed in pushing the country to denuclearization.
In a 2018 meeting, Trump signed a murky declaration to try to move toward denuclearization. In a February 2019 meeting, Trump called off the summit early after he said he couldn’t get on board with Kim’s proposition of lifting sanctions for moderate limitations on the country’s nuclear program.
Tensions between the two countries flared in 2017, with Trump threatening “fire and fury” in a tweet over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Critics of Trump among current and former U.S. officials previously told POLITICO that Trump’s approach to North Korea should have focused more on lower-level officials, not just Kim.
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.