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Biden, S.Korea's Yoon vow to deter N.Korea while offering COVID-19 aid

Commodities May 21, 2022 04:56PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a visit to a semiconductor factory at the Samsung Electronics Pyeongtaek Campus in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 2/3

By Trevor Hunnicutt, Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) - President Joe Biden and his new South Korean counterpart agreed on Saturday to hold bigger military drills and deploy more U.S. weapons if necessary to deter North Korea, while offering to send COVID-19 vaccines and potentially meet Kim Jong Un.

Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol said their countries' decades-old alliance needed to develop not only to face North Korean threats but to keep the Indo-Pacific region "free and open" and protect global supply chains.

The two leaders are meeting in Seoul for their first diplomatic engagement since the South Korean president's inauguration 11 days ago. The encounter between allies was clouded by intelligence showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is prepared to conduct nuclear or missile tests.

Yoon had sought more assurances that the United States would boost its deterrence against North Korean threats. In a joint statement, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons if necessary.

The two sides agreed to consider expanding their combined military drills, which had been scaled back in recent years over COVID-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North.

The United States also promised to deploy "strategic assets" - which typically include long-range bomber aircraft, missile submarines, or aircraft carriers - if necessary to deter North Korea, according to the statement.

Both leaders said they were committed to denuclearising North Korea and were open to diplomacy with Pyongyang.

"With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, it would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious," Biden told a joint news conference.

He said Washington had offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, which is combating its first acknowledged outbreak. "We've got no response," Biden said.

North Korea reported more than 200,000 new patients suffering from fever for a fifth consecutive day on Saturday, but the country has little in the way of vaccines or modern treatment for the pandemic.

EXPANDING ALLIANCE

The U.S.-South Korea alliance, which dates to the 1950-1953 Korean War, must further develop to keep the Indo-Pacific "free and open", Biden said.

He said the alliance was built on opposition to changing borders by force - an apparent reference to Russia's war in Ukraine and China's claims over Taiwan.

The joint statement called for preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

When asked by reporters about possible reactions from Beijing, Yoon's national security advisor Kim Sung-han said those issues were directly linked with South Korea's national interests, as its ships use the routes.

"So I think there would be little room for Chinese retaliation or misunderstandings about this," he said.

Changes in international trade and supply chains gave new impetus for the United States and South Korea to deepen their relationship, Yoon said, calling for cooperation on electric batteries and semiconductors.

Biden used the visit to tout investments in the United States by Korean companies, including a move by South Korea's Hyundai Motor Group to invest about $5.5 billion to build its first dedicated fully electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facilities in the United States.

The two leaders toured a Samsung (KS:005930) semiconductor plant on Friday, where Biden said countries like the United States and South Korea that "share values" needed to cooperate more to protect economic and national security.

Yoon said the concept of economic security will include cooperating in case of shocks in the foreign exchange market.

The South Korean president, keen to play a bigger role in regional issues, said his country would join Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which will be announced during the trip to set standards on labour, the environment and supply chains.

China is South Korea's top trading partner, and Yoon's aides emphasized that neither the joint statement or the IPEF explicitly excluded any country.

While White House officials have sought to play down any explicit message of countering China, it is a theme of Biden's trip and one that has caught the eye of Beijing.

"We hope that the U.S. will match its words with deeds and work with countries in the region to promote solidarity and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, instead of plotting division and confrontation," Chinese envoy for Korean affairs Liu Xiaoming, said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

Biden, S.Korea's Yoon vow to deter N.Korea while offering COVID-19 aid
 

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Comments (12)
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts May 21, 2022 9:03PM ET
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Yeah, give more of my hard earned money to other countries- Trump won.
CS Greer
CSGreer May 21, 2022 6:48PM ET
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And as we shall soon see, North Korea will do whatever it wishes, regardless of how many "vows" to deter them anyone makes. Biden's words are as hollow as Obama's was.
Junk Man
Junk_Man May 21, 2022 6:03PM ET
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Biden is playing a losing hand…
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 21, 2022 4:33PM ET
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Trump talking about Kim Jun Un: We fell in love.
Upholstery Gin
Upholstery Gin May 21, 2022 2:19PM ET
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hilow
Upholstery Gin
Upholstery Gin May 21, 2022 2:19PM ET
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gab nea
gab nea May 21, 2022 7:04AM ET
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trump liked north Korea's dictator more, had a bromance admiring him. could you imagine an american president stooping like that? thank god he is isolated on an island, just wish it wasn't Fla.
peter kwag
peter kwag May 21, 2022 7:04AM ET
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you are wrong badly by influenced stupid media.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 21, 2022 7:04AM ET
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Kim Jung Un called Donald Trump a Dottard. Now go drink your juice box and stop pretending you know what you are talking about.
John Laurens
John Laurens May 21, 2022 4:09AM ET
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Yoon's wearing a mask because Joe's loaded diaper is really really ripe...
Sabi Sab
SabiSab May 20, 2022 11:43PM ET
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Brandon:  You have f'ked up our country.  You make us pay $5 for each gallon of gas, and let our country run out of baby formula.  Do you want to starve our next generation to death?  Please go away and never come back.  You are a traitor!
Adrian White
Adrian White May 20, 2022 11:43PM ET
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Sabisab, you clearly have no understanding of the economy, or what the president does, if you think he "makes you pay $5 per gallon of gas" and "lets the country run out of baby formula". The US is not a midieval monarchy, or modern dictatorship, where the man at the top controls everything including all production and prices. But of course its much easier to point your finger and call people names than to educate yourself, isn't it.
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts May 20, 2022 11:43PM ET
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Adrian White Yeah, but he wasn’t elected, he was installed, so we can blame him for all of it.
lup sup
lup sup May 20, 2022 10:23PM ET
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Bidet forgot monkey pox in US is "serious" too.
 
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