White House on alert after reports of North Korean nuclear test during Biden’s Asia trip

North Koreans cheer missile launch in bizarre propaganda film

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The President is set to embark on his trip on Thursday and the White House is “preparing for all contingencies” following the reports. The President’s trip is supposed to signify that Mr Biden has not forgotten the strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific amid high focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine since February.

On Thursday, Mr Biden will leave for South Korea where he will engage in talks with the new President, Yoon Suk-yeol.
White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre stated that President Biden will not be visiting the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

On Sunday, Mr Biden is then due to travel to Japan for a summit of the Quad which includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday: “Our intelligence does reflect the genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or frankly both in the days leading into, on or after the President’s trip to the region.

“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan.”

Intelligence between the US and South Korea has been ongoing for some days about the likelihood of a North Korean nuclear test, which would be its first in five years.

Two months ago, the Pyongyang regime conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in four years and has since done three other missile tests.

Mr Sullivan added: “The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can look like if the democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road.

“To define the security architecture of the region to reinforce strong, powerful historic alliances.”

Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia nonproliferation programme at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, noted that recent activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site indicates preparations of nuclear or missile tests.

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Mr Lewis noted that Kim Jong-un has recently discussed his desire to “simultaneously push ahead with the material and technological preparations to cope with the future threats and challenges in an all-round way”.

He added: “This might mean either a nuclear or a missile test. 

“I suspect that North Korea’s schedule has more to do with their own political concerns and technical factors than Biden’s trip.”

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