North Korea has yet to respond to diplomatic outreach from US President Joe Biden, a senior administration official says.
The disclosure of the so-far unsuccessful US attempts to initiate discussions raises questions around how Biden will address mounting tensions with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
It also adds a new dimension to a visit America’s top diplomat and defence secretary will make next week to South Korea and Japan, with concerns over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal expected to be high on the agenda.
The senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered few details on the diplomatic push but said there had been efforts to reach out to the North Korean government “through several channels starting in mid-February, including in New York (at North Korea’s mission to the United Nations)”.
“To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang,” the official told Reuters.
North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump’s unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump’s efforts failed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
The Biden administration official said it appeared there had been no active dialogue between the United States and North Korea for more than a year, including at the end of Trump’s administration, “despite multiple attempts during that time by the United States to engage”.
During his election campaign, Biden described Kim as a “thug” and said he would only meet him “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held out the possibility of additional sanctions, in co-ordination with allies, to press North Korea to denuclearise.
Blinken is slated to host the first face-to-face discussions between senior Biden administration and Chinese officials on March 18 in Alaska. The Trump administration accused China of failing to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
A confidential UN report found that North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $US300 million ($A385 million) stolen through cyber hacks.