U.S. President Joe Biden Sunday issued a terse message for North Korea President Kim Jong-un: “Hello, period.”
President Biden is making his first visit to Asian countries since his inauguration with his first stop in Seoul, South Korea. North and South Korea are technically still at war since hostilities ended in July 1953 after agreeing to the armistice that neither nation signed. The armistice called for an end to hostilities while a formal peace treaty was worked out that, among other things, created a 2.4 mile buffer between the two countries. That area of mutual exclusion is called the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
U.S. administrations have been trying for decades to persuade North Korea to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. The reclusive Asian country tested its first nuclear bomb when it detonated a plutonium bomb underground in 2006. Reporters Saturday asked Biden if he would be willing to meet with the North Korean leader to hold talks about nuclear disarmament.
“It would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious,” Biden replied.
Only two presidents have met with North Korean leaders to discuss nuclear disarmament, and Jimmy Carter was out of office when he was sent as an envoy by then-President Bill Clinton.
Former President Donald Trump was the other president to meet with North Korean leaders about ending nuclear arms aspirations; he was the only sitting president to do so. A furious President Trump railed against Kim Jong-un, pejoratively naming him “Rocket Man,” and in 2017 he ordered a Navy carrier group to steam into striking distance of North Korea. The test of wills came in response to Trump’s demand that North Korea stop testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. No nuclear tests were conducted during the remainder of Trump’s presidency, and no long-range missiles were tested either. In fact, no tests or launches at all were conducted in 2018.
Now, the Biden administration is expecting North Korea to possibly launch a ballistic missile or conduct a nuclear test while Biden is traveling through Asia. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last week it was a “genuine possibility” during or soon after Biden’s trip.
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