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Kim ‘ready to test missiles to coincide with Biden’s visit’

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks next to what state media reports is the 'Hwasong-17' intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks next to what state media reports is the 'Hwasong-17' intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks next to what state media reports is the 'Hwasong-17' intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile to coincide with US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region while his country battles a Covid outbreak.

CNN has reported Mr Kim looks poised to test launch just such a missile in the next two to four days.

South Korea national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters yesterday that an intercontinental ballistic missile test could be imminent, without giving a more detailed timeframe.

North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles are designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, and the country fired one about two months ago for the first time in more than four years – highlighting the feat in a video shown on state TV.


The White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the CNN report.

Japan government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told a briefing in Tokyo that North Korea’s ballistic missiles threaten peace and stability, without directly addressing the CNN report.

Mr Kim presided over a politburo meeting on policies to halt a Covid outbreak that his government said has infected about 1.7 million people and killed 62 in the past few weeks, the official Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday.

Top leadership also chastised officials who failed “to properly handle affairs in the current health crisis due to a shortage of their experience”, it said.

The coronavirus crisis is providing one of the biggest tests of Mr Kim’s leadership since he took power a decade ago.

His propaganda apparatus has tried to deflect blame for the outbreak to lower-ranking officials while his country has put on shows of its military might to remind its people of its strength in the face of a flare-up that could crush its antiquated medical system.

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Mr Biden embarks on a trip to South Korea and Japan from tomorrow to try to co-ordinate with the US allies on security threats posed by the likes of North Korea, while seeking their participation in a new economic grouping to reduce reliance on China.

North Korea has ignored offers of Covid-19 aid from South Korea and others, and the isolated country – along with east Africa’s Eritrea – is one of only two in the world that has not started a vaccine programme against the virus.

Pyongyang appears to have sent aeroplanes to China, its biggest benefactor, in the past few days to pick up medical supplies.

The country’s population is already vulnerable according to the UN

It estimates about 40pc of its people are undernourished, which could magnify the impact of the virus.


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