White House is still finalising details of President Biden’s Asia schedule, US officials say, but a trip to the heavily fortified DMZ separating the two Koreas is a step that is taken by many who visit the region.
US President Joe Biden isconsidering a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (or DMZ) when hevisits Asia later this month, White House press secretary JenPsaki has said.
Biden is expected to visit South Korea and Japan from May20-24 and hold talks with his South Korean and Japanesecounterparts.
Psaki said the White House was still finalising details ofthe Asia schedule but a trip to the heavily fortified DMZseparating the two Koreas is a step that is taken by many whovisit the region.
Several former US presidents, and Biden himself before hebecame president, have visited the DMZ, but former presidentDonald Trump became the first to have met a North Korean leaderthere when he held a third meeting with Kim Jong-un in June 2019as part of his unsuccessful effort to persuade him to give uphis nuclear and missile programs.
The DMZ is often described as the world's last Cold Warfrontier and has existed since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
Pyongyang readying another nuclear test
Psaki repeated a US assessment that North Korea could beready to conduct a seventh nuclear test as early as this month.North Korea has not tested a nuclear bomb since 2017 butresumed testing intercontinental ballistic missiles thisyear.
"We shared this information with allies and partners and areclosely coordinating with them," Psaki said.
North Korea has recently stepped up weapons tests andresumed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches thisyear for the first time since 2017.
US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeksthat there are signs of new construction at Punggye-ri, NorthKorea's only known nuclear test site, and that Pyongyang couldsoon test another bomb.
North Korea fired three ballistic missiles toward the seaoff its east coast on Thursday, South Korea and Japan said, inits latest tests aimed at advancing its weapons programs, evenas it reported a Covid-19 outbreak for the first time.
In condemning the latest launch, the US State Departmentsaid it remained committed to a diplomatic approach with NorthKorea and reiterated a call for Pyongyang to return to dialogue.