U.S. President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol agreed Saturday to hold more military exercises and deploy more US weapons if needed to deter North Korea, and also offered to send COVID-19 vaccines and potentially meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Reuters reported.
Biden and Yoon Suk-yol said their countries' decade-long alliance should evolve not only to counter North Korean threats but also to keep the Indo-Pacific region "free and open" and protect global supply chains.
The two leaders meet in Seoul for their first diplomatic interaction 11 days after the inauguration of South Korea's president. The friendly meeting between the allies was overshadowed by intelligence reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was preparing to conduct a nuclear or missile test.
Yoon wanted more assurances that the United States would strengthen its deterrence of North Korean threats. In a joint statement, Biden reiterated U.S. readiness to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons if necessary.
The two sides agreed to consider expanding joint military exercises, which have been reduced in recent years in an effort to reduce tensions with North Korea.
The United States also promised to deploy "strategic assets" - which typically include long-range bomber aircraft, missile submarines, or aircraft carriers - if necessary to deter North Korea, according to the statement.
Both leaders said they are committed to denuclearizing North Korea and are open to diplomacy with Pyongyang.
"With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, it would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious," Biden told a joint news conference.
He said Washington has offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, which is battling its first recognized outbreak. "We've got no response," Biden said.