U.S. President Joe Biden said Sunday that he wasn’t concerned about the possibility of North Korea holding a nuclear test while he’s in Asia.
“We are prepared for anything North Korea does,” Biden told reporters in Seoul. “We’ve thought through how we’d respond to whatever they do, and so I am not concerned.”
U.S. intelligence has shown that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — who’s currently facing a rampant COVID-19 outbreak in his country — may be preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile or conduct a nuclear test to coincide with Biden’s trip to the region. It would be Pyongyang’s first nuclear test since 2017.
Biden departs later Sunday for Tokyo after three days in South Korea, during which his team opted against a visit to the DMZ — the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating the country from North Korea.
Biden said Saturday he’d consider holding talks with Kim only if he was convinced the North Korean leader was prepared to meet in good faith.
“With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, that would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious,” Biden told reporters Saturday following a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Asked what his message to Kim was, Biden said it was simply “hello” and that he had nothing else to add.
So far North Korea has rejected the Biden administration’s requests for talks without preconditions. In February, an administration official ruled out a meeting between Kim and Biden at the time, saying it would need to have a clear purpose.
The prospects for a meeting remain slim. In addition to the high bar Biden set Saturday, Pyongyang hasn’t indicated any willingness to engage in meaningful discussions, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Thursday.
Biden and Yoon agreed Saturday to start talks on expanding joint military exercises aimed at countering the threat posed by North Korea.
North Korea for years has called the joint drills a prelude to an invasion and nuclear war, and threatened retaliation. Kim has long sought to hold out the possibility of talks as a way to scale back the joint U.S.-South Korea drills, something which former President Donald Trump controversially agreed to during his summits with Kim.©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.