Biden and Yoon signal expanded military drills due to North Korea’s “threat”

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South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol (center-left) and US President Joe Biden arrive for a state dinner at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on May 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
SEOUL — US President Joe Biden and South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol signaled on Saturday an expanded military presence in response to the “threat” from North Korea, while also offering to help the isolated regime face a COVID-19 outbreak.اضافة اعلان

After meeting in Seoul on Biden’s first trip to Asia as president, the two leaders said in a statement that “considering the evolving threat posed by” North Korea, they “agree to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean peninsula”.

The possible beefing up of joint exercises comes in response to North Korea’s growing belligerence, with a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year as fears grow that Kim Jong Un will order a nuclear test while Biden is in Asia. Biden and Yoon also extended an offer of help to Pyongyang, which has recently announced it is in the midst of a Covid-19 outbreak, a rare admission of internal troubles.

The US-South Korea statement said the two presidents “express concern over the recent Covid-19 outbreak” and “are willing to work with the international community to provide assistance” to North Korea to help fight the virus. On Saturday, North Korean state media reported nearly 2.5 million people had been sick with “fever” with 66 deaths as the country “intensified” its anti-epidemic campaign.

Biden, while adding that he would not exclude a meeting with Kim if he were “sincere”, indicated the difficulty of dealing with the unpredictable dictator. “We’ve offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we’re prepared to do that immediately,” Biden said at a press conference with Yoon. “We’ve got no response.”

For his part, Yoon stressed that the offer of COVID aid was according to “humanitarian principles, separate from political and military issues”. Elected on a strongly pro-US message, Yoon emphasized the need to reinforce South Korea’s defenses. Any ramping up of US-South Korea joint military exercises, is likely to enrage Pyongyang, which views the drills as rehearsals for invasion.

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