North Korea will likely not respond to the change in leadership in the United States until the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris transition team’s foreign policy starts taking shape.
Whether and how North Korea will respond will depend on the extent to which the new administration will reverse and undo the Trump administration’s foreign policy. What “reverse” means remains elusive when it comes to North Korea policy.
This is because the policy of “strategic patience” comprising sanctions and pressure since the Obama days continued into the Trump era. The only notable difference was that both North Korea and President Trump neither held back escalatory behavior and words nor tamped down their mutual admiration that included multiple letter exchanges which amounted to nothing when it came to U.S.-North Korea relations.
Biden promised “principled diplomacy” with North Korea, but this comes with a caveat that North Korea will even respond to either Seoul or Washington.
At this point, however, North Korea has no reason to respond at all.
It achieved its goal of declaring itself as a nuclear state in November 2017 which triggered off a set of de-escalatory processes facilitated by South Korea that culminated in three Trump-Kim meetings. In other words, Kim Jong-un agreed to talks with the United States in 2018 because he had a leverage—the completion of nuclear weapons development even as the country was being isolated and under pressure for years. But South Korea’s facilitating role under the Moon administration is ever more constricted today than in early 2018 after Pyongyang accused Seoul in July of being “nosy” in its business with America.
Meanwhile the United States has been preoccupied with endless domestic political crises worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.