Since late 2019, North Korea has rejected U.S. requests for engagement. Even after the Biden administration’s rollout of a “calibrated, practical” approach to diplomacy and its stated willingness to meet “anywhere anytime without preconditions,” the North Korean government has rebuffed U.S. offers of a meeting to brief its policy. Instead, Pyongyang is laser-focused on combatting the spread of COVID and has sought to deepen ties with Beijing to mitigate the pandemic, as well as the effects of global sanctions and a crippled economy. 

North Korea’s unwillingness or hesitation to meet with the United States raises questions about North Korea’s motivations, fears and calculus — as well as whether Washington and Seoul’s best course of action is greater outreach, pressure or patience. On August 4, USIP and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea co-hosted a discussion on the current state of diplomacy with North Korea.

What factors are constraining the potential for engagement? What realistic steps can be taken to minimize those factors and increase the likelihood of productive diplomacy? Can South Korea or China play a helpful role in connecting the two sides? What are the risks of not engaging?

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #NKDiplomacy.


Ki-jung Kim
President, Institute of National Security Strategy 

Joseph Yun
Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace

Gee Dong Lee
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of National Security Strategy 

Moon-soo Yang
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor, University of North Korean Studies

Hee-Seung Na
Former President, Korea Railroad Research Institute

Kathleen Stephens
President and CEO, Korea Economic Institute of America

Markus Garlauskas
Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Frank Aum, moderator
Senior Expert, Northeast Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace

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