Biden to Discuss DPRK's Nuclear Program, Missile Tests During Talks With South Korea's Yoon
03:52 GMT 21.05.2022 (Updated: 13:36 GMT 18.09.2023)
Biden is currently on a trip to South Korea and Japan for a presidential visit, where he will hold bilateral meetings with their leaders amid his administration's efforts to enlist allies in the region to counter Chinese influence and against the backdrop of increased North Korean missile testing and a perceived acceleration of its nuclear program.
US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol will try to break the diplomatic deadlock with North Korea on Saturday, fearing that Kim Jong Un will conduct new nuclear tests, Reuters reported.
According to the report, the leaders are expected to meet in South Korea's capital Seoul for the first time since Yook's inauguration just 11 days ago.
The meeting is expected to be held amid US intelligence's claims that North Korea has been engaging in preparations for more nuclear tests. A source within the Biden administration official reportedly said that the two leaders will talk about nuclear cooperation and that Washington is still open to negotiating with North Korea.
"It is very much our desire that we find ways to have a diplomatic approach," the official is quoted as saying. "We have made very clear we're prepared to talk to them, and with no preconditions, and we're also prepared to take steps to address their domestic challenges, including COVID."
It was unclear how Biden and Yoon would relaunch negotiations with North Korea, which have been stalled since Biden assumed office early last year. Yoon has reportedly indicated that he will take a harder stance on North Korea than his predecessor and is anticipated to seek Biden's assistance. Moreover, Yoon has threatened a preemptive strike if signs of an impending attack are detected, and he has pledged to increase South Korea's deterrent capability.
However, the first COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea, which a US official has termed as "quite serious," could present an opening, per the report.
"We are very concerned about the COVID situation," they said. "We are very sensitive to the fact that they appear to be facing a quite serious situation, and I think you've seen we stand ready to work with others in the international community as needed to provide assistance."
On Saturday, North Korea purportedly confirmed more than 200,000 new fever patients for the fifth day in a row, but the government allegedly lacks vaccines and sophisticated medicine to combat the pandemic.
Although the US has ruled out supplying vaccines directly to the country, Yoon may press Biden to do so, according to sources. Biden's trip to China, trade and other regional issues could be overshadowed by a North Korean missile test.
19 May 2022, 20:34 GMT
All in all, Biden's trip is expected to be centered around the China issue, but White House officials reportedly fear that economy, trade, and other regional issues could be overshadowed by the possibility of a North Korean missile test.
And still, considering that Beijing is Seoul's largest commercial partner, South Korea is likely to take a careful approach in public, Reuters' sources suggested.