Before President Joe Biden wraps up his visit to South Korea on Sunday, he delivered a brief message to the northern nuclear dictator, who US officials say may be preparing for a provocation during the US leader’s visit to Asia .
“Hello,” Biden said when asked for his message for Kim Jong Un. “Period.”
The succinct greeting reflected the Biden administration’s so far unsuccessful attempts to revive diplomacy with Pyongyang. Attempts to raise awareness in the North went mostly unanswered. Instead, Kim has stepped up missile launches and may be preparing for a seventh underground nuclear test.
Biden said he was prepared for such eventualities on his first trip to Asia.
“We are ready for anything North Korea will do. We’ve been thinking about how we’re going to react to whatever they do. And so I’m not worried,” Biden said.
He was speaking before visiting some of the roughly 30,000 US military personnel stationed here as the final leg of his visit to South Korea.
Americans deployed on the Korean peninsula have long acted as a signal of US military strength in a region made anxious by the nuclear-armed nation to the north. Increasingly, they also act as a reminder of Western muscle in a region heavily influenced by China.
Biden plans to observe a joint airspace control center where members of the US and South Korean militaries work side by side to monitor airspace made stretched by North Korea’s missile testing ramp-up .
Earlier in the day, the president met with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun in Seoul, where he highlighted $11 billion in new investments from the Korean automaker, including $5.5 billion to open a new electric vehicle plant in Savannah, Georgia.
One of Biden’s main goals during his visit to Asia this week has been to reaffirm his commitment to two key alliances while seeking ways to further expand cooperation. He will depart South Korea for Japan later today, bringing with him a similar message of reassurance that America’s longtime ally in the Pacific can count on the United States as an economic and reliable security.
A day earlier, Biden and his South Korean counterpart, President Yoon Suk Yeol, wrote in a joint statement that they were open to expanding joint military exercises that Biden’s predecessor cut back, deeming them too costly. and provocateurs. Biden said the cooperation between the two countries demonstrates “our willingness to face all threats together.”
The expanded military exercises will aim to ensure “whatever it takes to best ensure military readiness and best ensure our ability to work closely together,” a senior administration official said on Sunday, though he declined. to provide a timetable or advice on the scope of the enlargement. drills.
“Mr. President, your country’s democracy shows the power of being able to give to its people,” Biden told Yoon during a toast at the start of a state dinner on Saturday evening. “We are proud to say, the generals with me today can also tell, that our armed forces have stood side by side, standing on a peninsula for seven decades to preserve peace and make this shared prosperity possible.”
He was likely to send a similar message to Japan, which also hosts a large US military population and maintains a mutual defense treaty with the United States. North Korea’s increased provocations and Chinese territorial seizures have caused deep concern in the country, which has turned to the United States for assurances about its security.
Biden is expected to visit Emperor Naruhito at his Imperial Palace before meeting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office last fall, on Monday. Later, he will outline a business plan for Asia that officials hope can generate broad support. And he will conclude his visit with a summit of the collective Quad – made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia – which is widely seen as an attempt to counter China’s military and economic ambitions.
Biden sought on his trip to connect the parallel sets of economic and security issues that emerged during his discussions with leaders. His trade plan, seen as a scaled-down alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact abandoned by his predecessor, is expected to place a strong emphasis on resilient supply chains decoupled from Chinese parties – a message he repeatedly conveyed to Seoul. .
Among the myriad other issues he hopes to raise – including regional security, trade, the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine – is the issue of improving ties between the two countries he is visiting this week. Relations between Japan and South Korea have soured in recent years, a combination of long-simmering historical resentments and more recent trade actions.
Biden told reporters in Seoul on Saturday “it’s extremely important” that the United States, South Korea and Japan have a “very close trilateral relationship.”
He said the current state of the world, where autocratic regimes like China and Russia have defied democratic norms, demands that the rest of the world stick together, despite lingering differences.
“Things have changed,” Biden said during his press conference. “There is a feeling among Pacific democracies that there is a need to cooperate much more closely, not only militarily but also economically and politically.”