The White House is still eager for talks with North Korea, but sees missile testing as destabilizing

“Of course we are concerned,” the official said of the latest round of launches from North Korea, which has troubled US allies after a stretch of relative calm.

The Biden administration has long sought to resume diplomacy with Pyongyang and extend the invitation to negotiations without any preconditions. Although there has been “no serious discussion internally” of a meeting between President Joe Biden and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, officials are eager for lower-level talks “anytime, anywhere.”

Although officials are confident that their messages will be received, they are still awaiting a response from North Korea.

As it begins testing missiles in a rapid cut, officials say the new stance could be a way to force the United States into a weaker negotiating position.

“This is classic negotiation in some ways, and the preliminary steps to a negotiation where they try to see what we are willing to do … as a precondition? And are we willing to essentially pay them to get on board? ” said the senior official in the administration. “Every time you have to pay someone to get to the table, you can be pretty sure they won’t stay there.”

The White House has watched with concern as North Korea resumes its tests, which on Sunday included a medium-range ballistic missile. It was an escalation of North Korea’s weapons program and a possible sign that bigger tests were coming, according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. It happened at a time when Biden is focusing on another international crisis: the build-up of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border.

The US official, speaking to reporters on Sunday, said North Korea has followed a pattern of testing its latest systems as a demonstration of its capabilities to the rest of the world. North Korea is seeking to increase pressure and validate and refine its weapons systems, the official said.

“They have made a number of systems that have tended to be shorter range systems until now,” the official said. “They have claimed a hypersonic glider. And I think this is in line with things that we have seen them do in the past where they have tried to show and demonstrate that they have developed new systems and capabilities and then to test them. “

Still, the official admitted that the U.S. results in guessing that North Korea’s motivations are poor, although it is still clear that Kim intends to increase his weapons.

“The reality is that North Koreans almost always have reasons for what they do. And our track record of understanding them in advance is not always that great,” the official said.

The United States is “still looking forward to a response” from North Korea to invitations to negotiations, though the official said they would begin at a level lower than a direct meeting between Biden and Kim.

“We would like to sit down and have a discussion with them. I think the idea that it can only be done at the level we reject. I do not think that is serious and that we have great respect for professionalism “of our North Korean interlocutors,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the official could not anticipate a major White House strategy shift to confront North Korea despite recent developments. Instead, the United States will take steps to emphasize American commitment to its allies in the region.

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