President Biden on Saturday indicated that he would consider meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un but only if he were “sincere” and “serious” about discussions related to the country’s nuclear program.
“It would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious,” Biden replied when asked under what conditions he would meet with the North Korean leader.
Biden made the comments in response to a question at a joint press conference Saturday following a bilateral meeting with South Korean Yoon Suk-yeol.
Sitting U.S. presidents historically have not typically met with North Korean leaders, but Biden’s predecessor, former President Trump, took an unprecedented step of meeting with Kim three times including stepping into North Korea. The Trump administration’s talks with North Korea about its nuclear program ultimately failed.
The Biden administration has said repeatedly that it is open to talks with North Korea with no preconditions, but Pyongyang has rejected those offers.
Biden’s remarks came amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, which is subject to international sanctions.
The Biden administration is bracing for a possible ballistic missile or nuclear test from North Korea while Biden is in Asia. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this week that either type of test was a “genuine possibility” during or close to Biden’s first trip to the region as president.
North Korea has test-fired several ballistic missiles this year. It hasn’t conducted a nuclear test since 2017.
Biden, whose trip includes stops in South Korea and Japan, vowed to strengthen U.S.-South Korea ties during his visit. A joint statement from the two leaders said the countries would begin discussions “to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula” given the threat posed by North Korea.
The statement described North Korea’s nuclear program as a “grave threat” and urged Pyongyang to return to negotiations. They also condemned recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests, calling them escalatory.
“President Yoon and President Biden reiterate their common goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agree to further strengthen the airtight coordination to this end,” the joint statement reads. “The two Presidents share the view that the DPRK’s nuclear program presents a grave threat not only to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula but also the rest of Asia and the world.”