In a meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea in Seoul last Saturday, Mr. Biden said that the United States would bolster the alliance and increase deterrence in the face of the North Korean threat. Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon announced that they would explore ways to expand joint military exercises that had been canceled or scaled down under President Donald J. Trump.
While in South Korea, Mr. Biden voiced a deep skepticism about the chances of meeting North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, whom Mr. Trump met three times. Asked by reporters if he had a message for Mr. Kim, Mr. Biden said simply: “Hello. Period.”
Mr. Yoon has been highly skeptical of North Korea, as well, saying that the efforts by his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, to engage with the North in dialogue and reconciliation have failed to roll back its nuclear weapons program.
When Mr. Yoon was sworn into office on May 10, he dangled “an audacious plan” to vastly improve the North’s economy and its people’s quality of life. But like his conservative predecessors, he attached an important caveat: Such economic largess would be possible only “if North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization.”
The missile tests on Wednesday indicated that North Korea was not interested in nuclear disarmament talks anytime soon. In a speech delivered during a nighttime military parade in April, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, reiterated that his people should prepare for a standoff with the United States “for a long period of time.” He also vowed to expand his arsenal of nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles and other delivery vehicles “at the fastest possible speed.”
Mr. Kim has also appeared to adopt a more aggressive nuclear doctrine in recent weeks.
In the same speech, he seemed to take a page from the playbook of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia when he warned that his nuclear arsenal was not just to deter foreign invasion, but also to be used “if any forces try to violate the fundamental interests of our state.”
Last month, Mr. Kim’s sister and spokeswoman, Kim Yo-jong, said North Korea could use nuclear weapons “at the outset of war.” After a short-range missile test last month, Mr. Kim said he was improving the “efficiency” of battlefield or “tactical nukes.”