US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol agreed in talks Saturday to “expand” military exercises in light of the “evolving threat” from North Korea.
Mr Biden landed in Seoul on his first visit to Asia since taking office in 2020 and met South Korea’s newly elected leader.
In a joint statement issued after the two leaders met, the White House said: “Both leaders commit to further strengthen deterrence by strengthening the common defense posture and reaffirm their commitment to a condition-based transition of operational control.” in times of war.
“Against this backdrop, and in light of the evolving threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), both leaders agree to initiate talks to expand the scale and scope of combined military exercises and training in and around the Korean Peninsula.”
On Wednesday, White House officials had warned that North Korea was planning some sort of weapons test in connection with Mr. Biden’s visit.
“Our information reflects the real possibility that there will be either another missile test including a long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or frankly both, in the days before, during, or after the President’s trip,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had said.
After the first round of bilateral talks on Saturday, Mr Biden said the US alliance with South Korea continues to deter the North, which is testing its largest missiles for the first time in almost five years, and appears to be preparing for a new nuclear test.
The alliance, which dates back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, must evolve to keep the Indo-Pacific “free and open,” he added.
The US is ready for diplomacy with North Korea, according to a senior Biden administration official.
“It is very much our desire that we find ways to take a diplomatic approach,” the official said. “We have made it very clear that we stand ready to speak to them, with no preconditions, and we also stand ready to take steps to address their domestic challenges, including Covid.”
However, during Sautrday’s press conference, Mr Biden declined to say whether he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“That would depend on whether he’s sincere and whether he means business,” he said, according to CNN.
On Friday evening, Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon toured a huge Samsung semiconductor plant.
Mr Biden said countries like the US and South Korea “share values” and need to work more closely together to protect economic and national security.
The South Korean leader is keen for his country to play a bigger role in regional affairs.
He is also expected to make his country one of the founding members of Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), to be announced during the trip, to set labor, environmental and supply chain standards.
Mr. Biden’s five-day visit to Asia, including visits to South Korea and Japan, comes amid US efforts to show support for allies in the region and reportedly dissuade China.
However, Chinese envoy for Korean affairs Liu Xiaoming said on Twitter: “Jake Sullivan said that Biden’s trip to Asia is not aimed at confronting China.”
“We hope that the US will walk the talk and work with countries in the region to promote solidarity and cooperation in Asia Pacific, rather than planning division and confrontation.”
Additional reporting by agencies
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/biden-south-korea-nuclear-north-b2084209.html The US and South Korea want to expand military exercises to ward off a nuclear threat from the north