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Biden expected in Asia, the shadow of North Korean nuclear hangs over his trip

The 79-year-old Democrat, for whom the confrontation of the United States with China is the major geopolitical subject of the years to come, is making his first trip to the region as president. He will arrive in South Korea on Friday before heading to Japan on Sunday.

The United States believes there is a “real possibility” that North Korea will conduct “another missile launch” or “a nuclear test” during the trip.

Despite the recent wave of Covid-19 in the country, “preparations for a nuclear test have been completed and they are only looking for the right time” to carry it out, South Korean MP Ha Tae-keung told reporters. , citing information from the Seoul National Intelligence Service.

Newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol told reporters on Friday that Biden’s trip was an opportunity to make relations between Seoul and Washington “stronger and more inclusive.”

“I am convinced that the alliance between South Korea and the United States, which aims to uphold the values ​​of democracy and human rights, can only improve in the future,” he said. he tweeted hours before Mr Biden arrived.

Joe Biden will meet the South Korean and Japanese leaders, and will participate in a meeting of the Quad in Tokyo, this diplomatic format that he is keen to relaunch and which brings together the United States, Japan, India and Australia .

– Taiwan and North Korea –

The United States wants “to affirm the image of what the world can be if the democracies and open societies of the world come together to dictate the rules of the game”, around American “leadership”, said the security adviser National Jake Sullivan, aboard Air Force One.

“We think this message will be heard in Beijing. But it’s not a negative message and it’s not aimed at one country,” Sullivan said.

China, and Taiwan, will nevertheless be in everyone’s mind.

CIA Director Bill Burns recently claimed that China is following the Russian invasion of Ukraine “closely” and will learn from it about the “costs and consequences” of a forcible takeover of Ukraine. Isle.

The White House has clarified that the American president will not go to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas – where Donald Trump met in 2019 with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, for a spectacular meeting but which did not take place. changed the trajectory of the regime.

– Threat of nuclear test –

The Biden administration has repeatedly, unsuccessfully, said it was ready to talk to North Korea, despite the latter having stepped up missile launches since the start of the year.

Seoul and Washington expect Pyongyang to resume nuclear testing imminently, after conducting six between 2006 and 2017.

According to US intelligence, there is a “real possibility” that North Korea will choose to stage a “provocation” after Joe Biden arrived in Seoul on Friday, his administration said before he left Washington.

That could mean “new missile testing, long-range missile testing, or nuclear testing, or both,” before, during, or after Biden’s tour of the region, Sullivan said.

And this as the country faces a worsening coronavirus epidemic, the number of cases now exceeding 1.7 million according to the official press.

A North Korean nuclear test would cause “adjustments to the posture of our armed forces in the region”, also declared Jake Sullivan.

But he denied that such an event would be seen as a setback to Joe Biden’s diplomacy. “It would underscore one of the main messages we are sending on this trip, which is that the United States is standing up for our allies and partners.”

Either way, North Korea will follow the outcome of the Yoon-Biden meeting on Saturday very closely, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, adding that “depending on the As a result, North Korea will decide whether to speed up or slow down” its weapons programs.

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