US President Joe Biden arrives in Japan with no response on North Korea awareness

On May 24, Biden will join Australian, Indian and Japanese leaders for a Quad Group summit but there are fears North Korea could test a nuclear-capable missile or bomb

US President Joe Biden, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony for President Biden, at the Palace State Guesthouse from Akasaka to Tokyo, Japan. PA

Tokyo, Japan: President Joe Biden arrived in Japan on Sunday for the second leg of a trip to Asia underscoring US commitment to the region, but overshadowed by fears that North Korea could test a nuclear weapon after ignoring the attempt to sensitize Washington.

Biden, making his first trip to Asia as president, flew from South Korea to Yokota Air Force Base outside Tokyo, where he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Emperor on Monday, as well as the unveiling of a US-led multilateral trade initiative.

On May 24, he reinforces the theme of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific by joining leaders from Australia, India and Japan for a Quad Group summit.

The trip, which comes as rival China experiences significant economic disruption due to COVID-19 outbreaks, was touted by Washington as a show of US determination to maintain its trade and military edge in the region.

But at every stop on Biden’s tour looms fear that the unpredictable North Korea will test a nuclear-capable missile or bomb.

Speculation that it could even happen while Biden was just across the border in Seoul has not materialized. However, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters the threat persisted.

Echoing Biden’s earlier statement that the United States is “ready for anything North Korea does,” Sullivan said the dictatorship had a choice.

“If North Korea acts, we will be ready to react. If North Korea does not act, North Korea has the opportunity, as we have said many times, to come to the table.”

Pyongyang has so far refused to heed U.S. calls for dialogue, officials say, even ignoring offers of help to fight a sudden massive outbreak of COVID-19, according to Biden.

And while in Seoul, Biden confirmed he was open to meeting Kim Jong Un if the lifelong leader is “sincere,” but Sullivan said that remains a long way off.

“We’re not even at the first stage yet,” he said.

Symbolizing the apparent one-sided conversation, Biden said the only message he currently has for Kim would be one word: “Hello. Period,” he said.

military exercises

Biden spent two days with incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, with beefing up military defense against North Korea a priority.

They issued a statement on May 21 saying that “in view of the evolving threat” from Pyongyang, they were considering expanding the “scope and scale” of joint US-South Korean military exercises.

Joint drills had been scaled back due to COVID-19 and for Biden and Yoon’s predecessors, Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in, to embark on a series of high-level but ultimately unsuccessful diplomacy with North Korea.

Unlike Dovish Moon, Yoon said he and Biden had discussed possible “joint exercises to prepare for a nuclear attack” and called for more US resources to be deployed to the region.

Any strengthening of forces or expansion of joint military drills is likely to enrage Pyongyang, which sees the drills as rehearsals for an invasion.

North Korea has this year carried out a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests, including firing a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017, with satellite images indicating a nuclear test is looming .

But its weapons testing schedule could also be affected by a raging Covid-19 outbreak.

More than 2.6 million cases of what the regime calls “fever” have been reported since the Omicron variant was first detected in April, state media said on Sunday.

Economic links

Before heading to Japan on May 22, Biden met with the chairman of Hyundai to celebrate the South Korean auto giant’s decision to invest $5.5 billion in an electric vehicle factory in the state of Georgia, in Georgia. the southern United States.

He also met with American and South Korean troops alongside Yoon, a program that a senior White House official said was able to “reflect the truly integrated nature” of the countries’ economic and military alliance.

Biden also emphasizes a larger, almost existential aspect of his trip, saying Asia is a key battleground in the “global competition between democracies and autocracies.”

“We’ve talked at length about the need for us to expand this beyond just the United States, Japan and Korea, but the entire Pacific, South Pacific and Indo-Pacific. I think it’s an opportunity,” Biden said after meeting Yoon.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, however, claimed on May 22 that the regional involvement of the United States was “essentially a strategy of division, incitement of confrontation and undermining of peace”, according to the media. Xinhua State.

“No matter how it’s packaged or disguised, it will inevitably fail,” he said.

With China the United States’ main rival in the regional fight in Asia, Biden illustrated Russia’s acute defiance when he signed into law a $40 billion aid bill on Saturday evening to help the Ukraine to fight invasion by forces from Moscow.

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Kevin E. Boling