White House Pitches Kim Jong-un Meeting ‘Without Preconditions’ on Eve of Biden Asia Summit

John Kirby, the White House National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications, told the Japanese outlet Kyodo News on Thursday that President Joe Biden is open to holding an in-person meeting with communist North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un “without preconditions.”

US President Joe Biden (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Kirby claimed that the Biden administration had reached out to Pyongyang with the offer and Kim’s regime  has “not responded positively.” Kim met with Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, on three occasions – in one such meeting allowing Trump to cross the border into the country and become the first American president to step on North Korean soil. The regime has largely ignored overtures from the Biden White House, however, on some occasions issuing statements confirming it is intentionally refusing to answer any communications from Biden.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un stands with US President Donald Trump south of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019 (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images).

Kirby’s revelation of such an offer surfaced on the eve of a scheduled meeting at Camp David, hosted by Biden, with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, North Korea’s bitterest geopolitical rivals. Both South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio are hardline conservatives prioritizing the enhancement of defense capabilities against their communist neighbors. Past trilateral meetings have featured an outnumbered Biden facing pressure to act more forcefully against North Korea’s routine belligerence and China’s increasingly vocal threats against Taiwan and others in the region.

South Korean news outlets reported on Thursday that the three leaders are planning to sign two documents promising to establish a “three-way hotline” and organize similar gatherings on an annual basis, effectively using the United States as a mediator between South Korea and its former colonizer. North Korea’s threats against its neighbors and America – which communist leaders claim its latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) model could reach easily – are expected to be a top issue of discussion.

Kirby told Kyodo News in an interview on Thursday that Biden had attempted to calm tempers with North Korea by inviting Kim to a one-on-one meeting “without preconditions.”

John Kirby, national security council coordinator, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images).

“They have not responded positively to that offer, but it’s still on the table. We are willing to sit down and negotiate without preconditions,” Kirby reportedly said.

Kirby lamented that Kim Jong-un had “shown no interest in that.”

“But absent that [a top-level meeting], and thus far he has shown no interest in that, we’ve got to make sure that we are ready in every other respect to defend our national security interests and those of our Korean and Japanese allies,” Kirby was quoted as saying. “That means putting more capability in the region which we have, and we will certainly consider doing that again in the future if we have to.”

Kirby did not clarify when Biden had extended the invitation to North Korea.

In a separate interview with CNN on Thursday, Kirby discussed the issue of Private 2nd Class Travis King, an American soldier who disappeared in July after running across the border into North Korea. King was scheduled to board a flight from Incheon, South Korea, to Texas on July 18 and, instead of getting on the flight, took a tour of the mutual Korean border and ran across. North Korea confirmed in a state propaganda article this week that it had custody of King and claimed that the soldier was seeking to become a refugee in North Korea or a “third country” to escape “racial discrimination” in America.

Private 2nd Class Travis King is being detained by North Korea after he crossed the border into the country (Carl Gates).

A tourist from New Zealand captured a photo of U.S. Army Pvt. Travis King shortly before he ran into North Korea from the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from South Korea (TMX).

Asked if North Korea could use King for propaganda purposes, Kirby said, “They certainly could,” but the White House has not “seen any indication that that’s exactly what’s afoot here.”

“We have made it clear to the North Koreans through various channels that we want to know those things and we want him back,” Kirby explained. “We want to get him back safely, but unfortunately, we don’t know exactly where they have him or what they plan on doing with him.”

North Korean officials have given little indication that they are interested in negotiating for King – or in speaking to Biden. Last month, in response to Biden deploying a nuclear-powered submarine to Busan, South Korea, North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam threatened to use nuclear weapons against America.

“[T]he ever-increasing visibility of the deployment of the strategic nuclear submarine and other strategic assets may fall under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the DPRK [North Korea] law on the nuclear force policy,” Kang wrote in a statement published by North Korean state media. “The DPRK’s doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons allows the execution of necessary action procedures in case a nuclear attack is launched against it or it is judged that the use of nuclear weapons against it is imminent.”

Kam was responding not just to the presence of the submarine, the USS Kentucky, but to Yoon, the South Korean president, threatening to “end” the Kim regime while aboard the vessel.

“We will make North Korea not even dream of carrying out a nuclear provocation, and we warned clearly that should North Korea carry out a provocation, it will lead to the end of that regime,” Yoon vowed.

Both Yoon and Kishida are expected to pressure Biden into more commitments to ensure a robust response in the event of a North Korean attack.

US President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after arriving on Marine One in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, May 30, 2023 (Julia Nikhinson/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images).

“With the security environment becoming more severe, it is of great significance that Japanese, U.S. and South Korean leaders will meet at this time,” Kishida said in Tokyo before departing to Camp David on Thursday. “This is a historic move to strengthen the strategic partnership among the three countries based on the unprecedentedly strong bilateral ties with the United States and South Korea.”