White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday that U.S. intelligence estimates there is a “genuine possibility” that North Korea will conduct a long-range missile test or nuclear test as President Biden prepares for his first trip to South Korea and Japan later this week.
Mr. Sullivan said the White House is coordinating with allies in the region to prepare for a possible provocation by North Korea while the president is abroad.
“Our intelligence does reflect the genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including a 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,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we’re in Korea or Japan.”
Mr. Sullivan said the administration is also prepared to make “both short- and longer-term adjustments” to U.S. military policy if Pyongyang continues a string of provocative weapons tests begun this year.
Earlier this month, North Korea completed its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. The country has not staged a nuclear test since the same year.
Mr. Biden’s trip on Thursday will be his first to Asia since taking office last year. While abroad he will meet with recently elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Mr. Biden will also attend a summit of the “Quad” group of regional democracies — the U.S., Australia, Japan and India — while in Tokyo, with both China and North Korea expected to be prime topics of conversation for the leaders.
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