On Friday May 21st, US President Joe Biden held a press conference in the White House on denuclearization in North Korea. Also present was his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in. It would be very difficult to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, according to President Biden. That said, the US President has re-affirmed his “iron-clad” commitment on the US alliance with South Korea to President Moon.
During the press conference, the US President said “We’re under no illusions how difficult this is – none whatsoever. The past four administrations have not achieved the objective. It’s an incredibly difficult objective.”
The US President also named veteran diplomat Sung Kim as his special envoy for North Korea. Sung Kim is the former US ambassador to Seoul.
Biden stressed his faith in traditional US alliances, despite facing a nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.
The US-South Korean partnership was called “the linchpin of peace, security” by Biden. He made a promise both countries will have a “shared approach” to the stand-off with North Korea.
Freedom of navigation
Biden and Moon discussed “freedom of navigation” for international shipping in the South China Sea during their talks at the White House. They also discussed “peace and stability” around Taiwan as well. In recent years, Taiwan has been subjected to growing threats by China.
Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was called by Moon as “the most urgent common task”.
Under the Trump administration, US relations with historic allies in Asia and Europe suffered turbulence. The former president labelled long-standing partners as cutthroat business competitors and freeloaders. To restore the previous balance, Biden is working quickly as he is aware of the challenge from China.
Partnerships and alliances
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugar was Biden’s first foreign guest last month. President Moon’s visit is the second made by a foreign head of state.
Reporters were told on Friday that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “It should send a clear message about the importance of these partnerships and alliances that the first bilateral meetings the president has had … are with Japan and South Korea.”
Medal of Honor
President Moon made an opening speech upon arrival in the US. He declared that South Korea and the United States share the “same soul” before holding talks with Biden. He said US-South Korean ties began at the start of the 1950s. This was during their bloody Cold War-era conflict with North Korea.
President Moon was invited to witness Biden awarding a 94-year-old US veteran of the Korean War with the Medal of Honor. This medal is the highest US military decoration for bravery. Moon’s invitation symbolized the deep, complex history behind those bonds.
First lieutenant Ralph Puckett led US and Korean soldiers in the desperate defense of a hill against Chinese troops. The incident happened in 1950, during the early part of Beijing’s entry into war. Puckett was wounded in the attack.
This is the first time any foreign leader took part in a Medal of Honor ceremony, according to the White House.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and her South Korean counterpart held separate talks involving a raft of CEOs. Their talks focused on high-tech manufacturing such as battery technology, semi-conductors and 5G wireless technology.
China and the North Korean nuclear arsenal were the main topics of the Biden-Moon meeting.
They reflected on the scale and complexity of both issues. However, not much information from the talks emerged in public.
The White House is abandoning former attempts to reach a “grand bargain” with Pyongyang. They will also not show what diplomats term “strategic patience” with North Korea.
Being realistically low-key while having an open-mind, the White House is now following “a calibrated practical approach” with the North.
A senior White House official said “We understand where previous efforts in the past had difficulties and we’ve tried to learn from those.”
Biden said the US approach would have to be on entirely different terms. He said this when asked to consider following up Trump’s headline-grabbing but ultimately fruitless summits with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Unless there was a concrete plan for negotiating on the nuclear arsenal, there won’t be any meetings on the matter says Biden.
Trump’s chummy relationship with Kim received a clear criticism by Biden. The President said he “would not do what had been done in the recent past. I would not give him all he’s looking for – international recognition”.
22nd May 2021 23:00
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