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United States and South Korea open to expanded military drills to deter North Korea

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United States and South Korea open to expanded military drills to deter North Korea

After meeting on Saturday, US President and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced that they will consider expanding joint exercises to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat at a time when there is little hope for genuine diplomacy on the issue.

Former US President Donald had considered canceling the exercises and expressed affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before making the announcement. And, despite being repeatedly rejected by the North, South Korea’s previous president, , remained committed to dialogue with Kim until the end of his term.

Biden stated that US-South Korean cooperation demonstrates “our readiness to take on all threats together.”

North Korea, which has defended its nuclear weapons and missile development as a necessary deterrent to what it sees as US threats, may react angrily to Saturday’s announcement. It has long been described as rehearsals for an invasion, though the allies have portrayed the drills as defensive.

In remarks at a joint news conference, Biden and Yoon reiterated their shared goal of complete denuclearization of North Korea. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and South Korea issued a joint statement pledging their commitment to a “rules-based international order.” The statement is likely to set the tone for how the United States and its allies will deal with any problems with North Korea.

Nonetheless, Biden reiterated his offer of vaccines to North Korea as the spreads at an alarmingly fast rate through the country, including an offer to route them through China if that was more acceptable to North Korea. When asked if he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Biden said it would depend on whether he was “sincere” and “serious.”

“We have offered vaccines not only to North Korea, but also to China,” Biden said. “We’re ready to do it right away.” We have received no response.”

Following II, the Korean Peninsula was divided into two radically different . Biden is touring computer chip and next-generation auto factories in South Korea, where he is engaging in talks for greater cooperation. However, in the north, a deadly outbreak has erupted in a largely unvaccinated autocracy that can best command the world’s attention by flexing its nuclear capabilities.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden flew to South Korea that the US has coordinated with Seoul and Tokyo on how to respond if the North conducts a nuclear test or missile strike while Biden is in the region or soon after. Sullivan also spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, earlier this week, urging Beijing to use its influence to persuade the North to stop testing.

Biden spent Saturday developing his relationship with Yoon, who took office just over a week ago, as part of a five-day trip to Asia.

The US president laid a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery on Saturday, wearing white gloves and a solemn expression as he burned incense and signed a guest book. Biden then met Yoon at the ’s House for nearly two hours before the news conference. The day concluded with a dinner at the National Museum of Korea.

Yoon raised a glass to Biden, noting that the alliance was “forged in blood on the battlefields of the Korean .” He stated that this partnership would extend beyond security in Korea to cutting-edge and a global strategic partnership, prompting Biden to laugh by quoting Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

Biden responded by toasting the alliance’s “flourishing for all the decades ahead.” “We go together,” both men said at the end of their toasts.

Both emphasized economic security and expanding trade relations during the talks, as two Korean industrial behemoths, Samsung and Hyundai, are opening major plants in the United States.

Yoon, a political newcomer with no foreign policy experience, approached Biden less than two weeks after taking office, hoping to demonstrate his competence on the world stage. On Saturday, spoke by phone with South Korea’s immediate past president, Moon Jae-in. According to the White House, Biden thanked him for their close collaboration.

Biden faces growing disapproval in the United States over inflation nearing a 40-year high, but his administration sees one clear economic win in the Pacific power struggle with China. According to Bloomberg Economics, the US will grow faster than China this year for the first time since 1976, a forecast that Biden highlighted at the news conference.

The United States has struggled to form an Asian coalition to counterbalance China’s growing power, abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement after a domestic political backlash.

Biden dodged a question about reviving the agreement, but he did mention the possibility of closer ties in the region beyond traditional allies like South Korea and Japan.

“Things have shifted,” he explained. “There is a sense among Pacific democracies that there is a need for much closer cooperation.” “Not only militarily, but also economically and politically.”

Biden did not explicitly mention the need to counter China in his remarks, but Beijing issued its own counter-messaging on Saturday.

“We hope that the US will follow through on its words and work with countries in the region to promote solidarity and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, rather than plotting division and confrontation,” said Liu Xiaoming, China’s envoy for Korean affairs, on .

Many White House officials believed that Kim’s nuclear ambitions would prove to be the administration’s most difficult challenge, and that the North Korean leader would seek to test Biden’s mettle early in his tenure.

Pyongyang held off on missile tests during Biden’s first 14 months in office, despite the administration’s efforts to reach out through back channels in the hopes of restarting talks that could lead to the North’s denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief.

The silence, however, did not last. North Korea has conducted 16 missile tests this year, including the first flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, which demonstrated a potential range that included the entire US mainland.

The Biden administration has urged China to prevent North Korea from conducting any missile or nuclear tests. Sullivan said on Air Force One that Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping could talk by phone in the coming weeks.

While Biden has stated that China is the US’s greatest economic and national security competitor, he believes it is critical to maintain open lines of communication so that the two powers can cooperate on issues of mutual concern. North Korea is possibly at the top of that .

Biden will not visit the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone, according to White House officials. On Sunday, Biden will instead visit the Air Operations Center’s Combat Operations Floor at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul.

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