Pyongyang may conduct a nuclear test to coincide with President Biden's Asia trip, Washington predicts
North Korea may return to testing nukes before the month's end for the first time since 2017, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday. The prediction was "consistent with the DPRK's recent public statements and destabilizing actions, including the test launch of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles," she continued.
Pyongyang has held 16 missile launches so far this year, including an ICBM set off in March, but has not conducted any nuclear tests since September 2017.
Psaki previously reported that the US was "monitoring" North Korea for potential destabilizing moves, noting that US President Joe Biden planned to visit South Korea and Japan from May 20 to the 24th. While she declined to reveal whether he would visit the Demilitarized Zone, she acknowledged that such visits are "a step that is taken by many who visit the region."
While Biden's predecessor Donald Trump repeatedly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an effort to convince Pyongyang to denuclearize, Biden has returned to previous presidents' policy of demanding a total shutdown of the country's nuclear program before even considering the loosening of sanctions.
With no negotiations forthcoming, North Korea dispensed with the self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile testing it adopted as a show of good faith during the Trump administration, though it has maintained its nuclear pause.
The DPRK warned last month that it would take decisive action to "crush" any "hostile" foreign power "at the fastest possible speed," vowing to continue its nuclear program in order to be ready at any time should the US attack and even to use such weapons "preemptively" if needed. The country also boasted of testing a "new-type tactical guided weapon" in order to bolster the efficiency of its tactical nukes.