US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made the remark at a White House briefing on Wednesday, saying Biden would not visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas during his visit to the South, which begins Friday.
“Our intelligence does reflect a genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or, frankly, both, in the days leading into, on, or after the president’s trip to the region,” he said, adding, “We are preparing for all contingencies.”
Sullivan said the US was coordinating closely with South Korea and Japan and that he had also discussed the possibility of North Korean nuclear or missile tests with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in a phone call on Wednesday.
He said Washington was prepared to make both short- and longer-term adjustments to its military posture as necessary to ensure that it was providing both defense and deterrence to its allies in the region and that it’s responding to any North Korean provocation.
Biden is expected to arrive in South Korea on Friday. He will later visit Japan, with Pyongyang expected to be high on the agenda on both visits.
The trip is Biden’s first to the region as president, and will include his first summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10.
The new president of South Korea has suggested a tougher line on the North, warning of a preemptive strike in the event of an attack and vowing to strengthen his country’s deterrence capability. He favors stronger ties with the US. Experts believe Seoul’s policy toward Pyongyang will take a turn from rapprochement to more tensions.
Biden’s trip comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea having ramped up its military activities in recent weeks.
Washington is, meanwhile, ratcheting up pressure on North Korea. The Biden administration is seeking a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea to decide on more sanctions on the country.
A weapons test could overshadow Biden’s broader focus on China.