Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) — US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said after a meeting on Saturday that they would consider expanding joint military exercises to deter a nuclear threat from North Korea, when the actual There is little hope for diplomacy. Case.
The announcement reflects a change of direction from their predecessors by both leaders: former US President Donald Trump had considered ending the practice and expressed affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And the last South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to talks with Kim until the end of his term, despite repeated rebukes by the North.
Biden said the cooperation between the US and South Korea reflects “our readiness to take all threats together”.
North Korea, which has defended its nuclear weapons and missile development as a necessary deterrent against what it describes as US threats, may react angrily to Saturday’s announcement. It has long described joint military exercises as rehearsals for an offensive, although the Allies have characterized the exercises as defensive.
Biden and Yoon confirmed in remarks at a joint news conference that their shared goal is the complete denuclearization of North Korea. The US and South Korea said in a joint statement that they were committed to a “rules-based international order” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The statement likely sets the stage for how the United States and its allies will address any challenge with North Korea.
Yet Biden reiterated his offer of vaccines to North Korea as the coronavirus spreads through that country at an alarmingly fast rate, including an offer to route them through China if that was more acceptable to North Korea. . Asked if he was willing to meet with Kim Jong Un, Biden said it would depend on whether the North Korean leader was “honest” and “serious”.
“Yes, we have offered vaccines not only to North Korea but also to China,” Biden said. “We set out to do so immediately. We haven’t received a response.”
The division of the Korean Peninsula after World War II has given rise to two radically different countries. In South Korea, Biden is visiting factories for computer chips and next-generation autos in a democracy and negotiating more collaboration. But in the north, a largely illiterate autocracy has a deadly coronavirus outbreak that could grab the world’s attention by flexing its nuclear capabilities.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said the US had coordinated with Seoul and Tokyo on how they would respond should the North conduct a nuclear test or missile strike, while Biden in Is. area or immediately thereafter. Sullivan also spoke with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi earlier this week and urged Beijing to use its influence to persuade the North to stop testing.
As part of a five-day visit to Asia, Biden spent Saturday developing his relationship with Yoon, who took office a little more than a week ago.
The US president, wearing white gloves and a sad expression at the Seoul National Cemetery on Saturday, offered a wreath as he also lit incense and then signed a guest book. Biden then congratulated Yun for the nearly two-hour meeting at the People’s House followed by a news conference. The leaders concluded the day with a dinner at the National Museum of Korea.
Yoon welcomed Biden with a toast, noting that the alliance was “built in blood on the battlefield of the Korean War.” He said the partnership would go beyond security in Korea to include cutting-edge technology and a global strategic partnership, then quoted Irish poet William Butler Yeats as Biden laughed.
Biden retaliated with a toast to the coalition “to flourish for all decades to come.” Both men ended their toasts with the military motto, “We go together.”
During the talks, the two leaders emphasized economic security and growing trade ties as two Korean industrial giants – Samsung and Hyundai – are opening major plants in the US.
Yun, a political novice with no foreign policy experience, came into talks with Biden less than two weeks after taking office to demonstrate his worth on the world stage. The US President also spoke on the telephone with former South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday. The White House said Biden thanked him for their close partnership.
Biden is facing growing disapproval within the US over inflation at a 40-year high, but his administration sees a clear economic victory in the competition with China for influence in the Pacific. A Bloomberg Economics analysis predicts that the US economy will grow faster this year than China for the first time since 1976, a forecast that Biden highlighted at the news conference.
The US has struggled to tie together a coalition of countries in Asia that could balance China’s growing power, following a political backlash at home that abandoned the trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Biden sidestepped a question about renegotiated the deal, but talked about the potential for closer ties in the region beyond traditional allies such as South Korea and Japan.
“Things have changed,” he said. “There is a feeling among democracies in the Pacific that there is a need to cooperate more closely. Not only militarily, but also economically and politically.”
Biden did not speak explicitly in his remarks about the need to counter China, but Beijing offered its own counter-message on Saturday.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese envoy for Korean affairs, said on Twitter: “We hope that the United States will reconcile its actions and work with countries in the region to promote solidarity and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, fighting division and confrontation.” Instead of plotting.”
Early in the administration, many White House officials thought Kim’s nuclear ambitions would perhaps prove to be the administration’s toughest challenge and the North Korean leader would aim to test Biden’s ability early in his time in office.
During the first 14 months of Biden’s administration, Pyongyang barred missile tests, even as it ignored the administration’s efforts to reach through back channels in hopes of restarting , which could lead to denuclearization of the North in exchange for sanctions relief.
But the silence did not last. North Korea has tested missiles 16 separate times, including in March this year, when the first flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 demonstrated the potential range, including across the US mainland.
The Biden administration is asking China to stop North Korea from engaging in any missile or nuclear tests. Speaking on Air Force One, Sullivan said Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping could hold a phone call in the coming weeks.
While Biden has made it clear that he views China as the United States’ biggest economic and national security competitor, he says it is important to keep the lines of communication open so that the two powers can cooperate on issues of mutual concern. Can you North Korea probably tops that list.
White House officials said Biden would not visit the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula during the visit. Instead, Biden will visit the Combat Operations Floor of the Air Operations Center at Osan Air Base south of Seoul on Sunday.
Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, and Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.