The United States is stepping up intelligence operations in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's inner circle as grumbling of a seventh nuclear test looms, Newsweek reported.
John Kirby, a national security adviser to President Joe Biden, said during a Monday press briefing that the U.S. was taking North Korean missile tests and warning shots aimed at seriously provoking its neighbors.
"We have been consistently concerned about North Korean provocations, not just because of the accelerated missile launches, for instance, in the last few weeks," Kirby explained, adding that "several months ago, we added some intelligence capabilities off [of] the Korean Peninsula."
In addition to the increased intelligence, Kirby said the U.S. would "continue to conduct the bilateral and trilateral exercises with the Japanese and South Koreans" and "engage the international community" about pursuing economic retaliation.
Kirby also assured that the Biden administration is willing to sit down with Kim, without preconditions given the high stakes, and talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
However, "Mr. Kim has proven unwilling to take us up on that offer," he admitted. "Absent that opportunity to sit down and talk about it. We've got to make sure that we're ready to defend against it."
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, meanwhile, is facing substantial pressure in his own country to call for the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons as North Korean aggression swells, according to The Korea Times.
"As I said the other day, there are diverse opinions across our nation and in the United States regarding extended deterrence, so I am listening to them carefully and looking carefully at various possibilities," Yoon told reporters.
"I'd like you to understand that it's difficult for a president to openly confirm or give a clear answer on such security issues," he added.
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