Coronavirus-hit North Korea tests missile before Biden visits southern neighbor

Washington – Reuters
North Korea, which is battling a suspected wave of coronavirus infections, appears to be preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile ahead of US President Joe Biden’s first official visit to South Korea, a US official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said recent intelligence showed North Korea could conduct the missile test on Thursday or Friday.
Biden is expected to arrive in South Korea on Friday and hold talks with officials there for several days before heading to Japan.
The White House said last week that Biden was considering visiting the demilitarized zone on the border with North Korea.
A missile test would overshadow Biden’s broader focus on China, trade and other regional issues, and highlight the lack of progress in denuclearization talks despite his administration’s promise to break the impasse with pragmatic tactics.
It could also complicate international efforts to provide assistance to Pyongyang as it battles its first confirmed outbreak of the coronavirus.
Biden’s trip is his first to the region as president and will mark his first summit with South Korean President Yoon Sok-yul, who took office on May 10.
Yoon has vowed to take a tougher stance on North Korea’s “provocations” and is expected to seek further assurances from Biden that the United States will strengthen its “extended deterrence” against North Korea.
When asked about the US assessment of a possible missile test, a Defense Ministry spokesman in Seoul said South Korean and US intelligence authorities closely monitor and coordinate such activities. , and that his army maintains a strong readiness posture.
US officials have indicated that North Korea may also test a nuclear weapon at the time of the visit, with the US State Department saying on Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak was not expected to delay the resumption of halted nuclear tests. since 2017.

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