North Korea fired three ballistic missiles off the Sea of Japan early Wednesday in the hours following President Joe Biden’s departure from Asia after he spent five days in South Korea and Japan.
U.S. Indo-Pacific confirmed the launches, along with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Japan’s defense minister.
‘While this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launches highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,’ a statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific said. ‘The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.’
President Joe Biden arrives back at the White House Tuesday night from his five-day trip to Asia. The White House said Biden had been updated about the North Korean missile tests that happened in the hours following his departure
South Korean television shows a previous North Korean missile launch. U.S. Indo-Pacific command confirmed the new missile launches
The White House said Biden had been updated on the launches as he arrived back in Washington Tuesday night.
Throughout Biden’s trip to Asia – marking his first as U.S. president – administration officials warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could test missiles or nukes.
Biden was asked a number of questions about dealing with Kim while in South Korea.
He gave reporters a very literal answer Sunday when asked if he had a message for the North Korean dictator.
‘Hello,’ Biden answered. ‘Period.’
‘We are prepared for anything North Korea does,’ Biden also said. ‘I’m not concerned if that’s what you’re asking.’
The president was also asked about Kim at his Saturday press conference alongside South Korea’s new leader, President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Biden was asked if the U.S. would consider sending COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea, as the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’ is experiencing skyrocketing coronavirus cases.
‘Yes we’ve offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we’re prepared to do that immediately,’ Biden said.
‘We’ve gotten no response,’ he added.
On meeting with Kim – who thrice met former President Donald Trump – Biden included caveats.
‘With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, it would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious.’
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said it was ‘hard to speculate, honestly,’ why Kim hadn’t tested missiles or nuclear weapons while Biden was in South Korea.
‘And anytime people start speculating on what North Korea might or might not do, they tend to have their expectations confounded one way or another,’ Sullivan told reporters on board Air Force One en route to Japan Sunday.
Sullivan was also asked why the North Koreans engaged with the Trump White House but, so far, not Biden’s.
‘They go through cycles where they respond and cycles that they don’t,’ Sullivan explained. ‘We’re in a cycle where they don’t. That’s been true across multiple administrations and I just can’t speculate as to the rationale for that.’
He also noted that past American presidents usually have seen a North Korean nuclear test in the first year of their administrations, but that didn’t happen when Biden came into office.