The new legislation will provide $20 billion in military assistance, ensuring a steady flow of advanced weapons that have been used to hold back Russian advances. There is also $8 billion in general economic support, $5 billion to address global food shortages that could result from the collapse of Ukrainian agriculture, and more than $1 billion to help refugees.
Biden signed the measure under unusual circumstances. Because he is in the middle of a trip to Asia, a US official brought a copy of the bill on a commercial flight to Seoul for the president to sign, according to a White House official.
The logistics reflect a sense of urgency around continued US support for Ukraine, but also the overlapping international challenges Biden faces. Even as he tries to reorient American foreign policy to confront China, he continues to direct resources into the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II.
Biden also signed an unrelated measure, aimed at increasing access to formula milk at a time when supplies remain tight in the United States. The legislation will allow government benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – better known as WIC – to be used to purchase more types of infant formula.
Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said after meeting on Saturday they would consider expanding joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat from North Korea at a time when there is little hope real diplomacy in this matter.
Biden said the cooperation between the United States and South Korea shows “our willingness to face all threats together.”
The announcement reflects a change in direction of the two leaders from their predecessors: former US President Donald Trump had considered abandoning the exercises and expressed his affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. South Korean, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to dialogue with Kim until the end of his mandate despite repeated rebuffs from the North.
North Korea, which has defended its development of nuclear weapons and missiles as a necessary deterrent against what it describes as US threats, may well react angrily to Saturday’s announcement. He has long described joint military drills as rehearsals for an invasion, although the allies have described the drills as defensive.
Biden and Yoon affirmed at a joint press conference that their common goal is the complete denuclearization of North Korea.