WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration is not about to change its long-standing North Korea policy and will continue to focus on deterrence and stronger ties with Asian allies, a senior White House official said, despite leader Kim Jong Un's unprecedented barrage of missile tests in recent months.
The U.S. is "always examining our assumptions" about North Korea but believes "the course that we've been on has been effective and prudent," White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters Tuesday.
"It's undeniable that North Korea is one of the most challenging issues on the global stage," Campbell said on the sidelines of the Trans-Pacific Dialogue conference in Virginia hosted by South Korea's Chey Institute. "Our best approach is to ensure that we are, in fact, in lockstep with our allies and partners and we're going to continue with that."
North Korea, which has declared itself a nuclear weapon state, has fired off a record number of missiles this year as the U.S. and its allies continue to pursue a policy that is aimed at the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula while not officially recognizing that Pyongyang now has nuclear-weapons capability.
In November, North Korea test-fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile with an estimated range far enough to carry a warhead to the American mainland.
The sheer volume of missile tests -- and the looming possibility of a seventh nuclear test -- has prompted some observers to call for a change to long-standing U.S. policy, which has focused on sanctions and building ties with allies.
While some experts have called for tightening sanctions, or pressuring China, others argue for a more wholesale change to U.S. foreign policy on North Korea. Nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in October calling on Washington to "contemplate the unthinkable" and accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.
Last week, the Biden administration said it was considering "all available tools" to punish North Korea and unveiled new sanctions -- alongside Japan and South Korea -- to pressure Pyongyang to come back to the negotiating table. The U.S. announced sanctions against three individuals for their connection to the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
Speaking Tuesday, Campbell said the U.S. doesn't know when North Korea might test another nuclear weapon but said Washington has warned of the consequences of doing so.
"We've sent a very strong signal to North Korea, to China, to Russia, to others, that a seventh nuclear test would be destabilizing and extremely unhelpful during this delicate period," he said.