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Biden says ‘hello’ to North Korea’s Kim amid tensions over weapons tests

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U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint news conference in Seoul with South Korean President Yoon Sukyeol on May 21, 20, 222. 

Jeon Heon-Kyun | Reuters

The U.S. president Joe Biden visited Seoul on Sunday before heading off to Japan on his Asia tour. His message was simple: “Hello…period,” he said to reporters during his last day in South Korea.

Biden stated that he wasn’t concerned about the North Korean nuke test, which will be the first since almost five years.

His wry reply when asked about his message to Kim highlighted the low-key attitude of the Trump administration towards the unresolved North Korean tensions. This is in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump’s comments, summits and “love notes” with Kim.

Despite not being able to achieve a breakthrough with the president, North Korea continues testing its most powerful intercontinental ballistic weapons (ICBMs). Intelligence reports also suggest that it’s preparing for a second nuclear test.

Biden stated, “We’re ready for whatever North Korea does,”

Biden, his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol had agreed to increase military exercise and deploy more nuclear-capable American arms to the region as a result of the North’s recent weapons testing.

Biden claimed that North Korea hasn’t responded to U.S. requests, including Covid-19 vaccinations. 

According to a U.S. senior administration official, North Korea could be ignoring the Covid-19 restriction.

North Korea says the U.S. offers aren’t sincere as Washington has “hostile” policies such military drills, sanctions and other measures.

Joe Biden (left), the U.S. president, is seen attending a South Korean state dinner, hosted by Yoon Suk Yeol at Seoul’s National Museum of Korea. The event took place on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Evan Vucci | AP Photo

Officials were asked by Biden if they would be willing to make concrete efforts to resolve the standoff.

This is an important decision only the DPRK could make,” the official claimed, using the initials North Korea’s official names.

Biden, Yoon and others visited the air operations center at a U.S. military base in South Korea. Behind large projectors that show maps of the North-South border, American and South Korean soldiers are assigned to defend against any North Korean missiles.

Yoon stated that such facilities were important due to the “increasing threats” from North Korea.

Biden later enjoyed ice cream, met American troops with their families and played bowling at a base-side alley before leaving for Japan.

Building regional teams

Biden has focused his efforts on bringing together “like-minded” democracies in an effort to increase cooperation. This is part of larger efforts to combat China’s growing influence as well as to put pressure on Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Biden will be meeting with the leaders of Australia, India, and Japan on the second leg. This group is known as The Quad. It’s another key component of his strategy against China’s growing influence.

Yoon expressed interest in working with the Quad more, but the U.S. official stated that Seoul was not being considered for the group.

The official stated that while it was natural to consider ways to work together with like-minded democracies but also to acknowledge the fact that right now the goal is to expand and improve upon what’s been established.

Tokyo will also witness the Monday launch of Biden’s eagerly awaited Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, (IPEF), which is a program that aims to bring regional countries closer through common standards in areas such as supply-chain resilience and clean energy.

Although the official from the U.S. declined to name the countries that might join the IPEF, he said there was “very strong interest” in the area to participate.

Biden also met the head of Hyundai Motor, who announced Sunday that they would be investing $5 billion in America through 2025. This will allow them to improve their collaboration with American firms in diverse technology areas, including robotics, automated driving, and urban air mobility.

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