US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said after a meeting Saturday that they will consider expanded military drills to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat at a time when there is little hope of real diplomacy on the matter consists.
In remarks at a press conference, Yoon reiterated that their common goal is the complete denuclearization of North Korea. The US and South Korea issued a joint statement saying they are committed to a “rules-based international order” following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The statement likely sets the stage for how the US and its allies will address any challenges with North Korea.
The statement could provoke an angry reaction from North Korea, which has defended its nuclear weapons and missile development against what it perceives as US threats and has long described the US-South Korea military drills as invasion rehearsals, though allies described the drills as defensive
Biden told his counterpart at a meeting that their 70-year alliance between their countries was founded on “common sacrifices” and was being taken to a new level as the emphasis on national security was reinforced with an added focus on trade and technology.
“Our two nations are working to embrace both the opportunities and the challenges of the moment,” said the US President.
The division of the Korean peninsula after World War II has resulted in two radically different countries. In South Korea, Biden tours factories for computer chips and next-generation cars in a democracy and holds talks on closer cooperation. But in the North there is a deadly coronavirus outbreak in a largely unvaccinated autocracy that can best get the world’s attention by using its nuclear capabilities.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden flew to South Korea, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US had coordinated with Seoul and Tokyo on how to respond if the North launched a nuclear test or would launch a missile attack while Biden is in the region or shortly thereafter. Sullivan also spoke to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi earlier in the week, urging Beijing to use its influence to persuade the North to halt testing.
As part of a five-day visit to Asia, Biden spent Saturday building his relationship with Yoon, who took office just over a week ago. One of Biden’s tasks was to reassure South Korea about US commitments to confront North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
There is concern in Seoul that Washington is falling back on the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” policy of ignoring North Korea until it shows seriousness about denuclearization, an approach that has been criticized for neglecting the North as it made great strides in building its nuclear arsenal.
The prospects for true nuclear diplomacy are slim as North Korea has ignored offers of help from South Korea and the US in its COVID-19 outbreak, dampening hopes that such cooperation could help ease nuclear tensions or even spark talks. Still, Biden and Yoon are expected to discuss ways to work with the international community to bring much-needed vaccines and tests to the North, according to senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters.
The US President opened Saturday by laying a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery, wearing white gloves and a somber expression as he also burned incense and then signed a guest book. Biden then welcomed Yoon to People’s House for a nearly two-hour meeting and brief public remarks. The pair will also hold a joint press conference and attend an executive dinner at the National Museum of Korea.
Alongside North Korea, both leaders are emphasizing growing trade ties as two Korean industrial companies — Samsung and Hyundai — open major plants in the US
Biden faces growing disapproval in the US over inflation near a 40-year high, but his administration sees a clear economic victory in its battle with China for influence in the Pacific. Bloomberg Economics Analysis estimates the US economy will grow faster than China this year for the first time since 1976, a forecast that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attributed to Biden’s spending on coronavirus relief and infrastructure resulted in faster employment growth.
The national security event spurring broader discussions between the two countries was the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war that has led to an unprecedented series of sanctions by the US and its allies.
South Korea has joined the US in imposing export controls on Russia and banning Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system. His participation was key to stopping Russia’s access to computer chips and other technologies needed for weapons and economic development.
Early in the tenure, many White House officials thought that Kim’s nuclear ambitions would prove to be perhaps the administration’s most vexing challenge and that the North Korean leader would aim to test Biden’s abilities early in his tenure.
For the first 14 months of the Biden administration, Pyongyang held back missile tests, despite ignoring government efforts to come forward through back channels in hopes of resuming talks leading to denuclearization of the North in return for sanctions lifting could.
But the calm didn’t last. North Korea has tested missiles 16 times this year, including in March when its first ICBM flight since 2017 showed potential range including the entire US mainland.
The Biden administration is urging China to block North Korea from participating in missile or nuclear tests. On Air Force One, Sullivan said Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping could have a phone call in the coming weeks.
Biden has heavily criticized Beijing for its human rights record, trade practices, military harassment of the self-governing island of Taiwan and more. And while Biden has made it clear that he sees China as the United States’ biggest economic and national security competitor, he says it’s crucial to keep lines of communication open so the two powers can work together on issues of common interest. North Korea might be at the top of that list.
White House officials said Biden will not visit the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula during his trip — something that has become standard for presidents on visits to Seoul since Ronald Reagan. Biden attended the DMZ in 2013 as Vice President. Sullivan said the president’s decision to skip the stop this time was not due to safety concerns.
Instead, on Sunday, Biden will visit the Combat Operations Floor at the Air Operations Center at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul. The US considers it one of the most critical assets in Northeast Asia.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/21/u-s-south-korea-to-consider-expanded-military-drills-vs-nkorea/ US and South Korea are considering expanded military exercises against North Korea