The threat from North Korea and nuclear cooperation, risks to regional security and supply chains, as well as the strengthening of economic and military ties, were the key issues on the agenda during the first summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and American Joe Biden. An expected meeting that was held on Saturday at Yoon’s new presidential headquarters in Yongsan, in central Seoul, instead of the traditional Blue House.

Biden arrived the day before on his first visit to the country as president and just 10 days after Yoon took officewhile both countries claimed the imminence of a nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea.

The rumors that have emerged in recent days, in addition to the extensive reinforcement of bilateral cooperation, indicated that with respect to the North Korean issue, a desire prevails on both sides to relaunch diplomatic and peaceful action with Pyongyang, given the stalemate in negotiations on the nuclear issue.

Therefore, the leaders “reiterated their common objective of the complete denuclearization of the Peninsula given that the nuclear program represents a serious threat not only to peace and stability in the areabut also for the rest of Asia and the world.”

To that end, the leaders agreed to expand “the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training around the Korean peninsula,” according to a joint statement issued after the summit. Both expressed concern over the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the DPRK, and the joint statement added that the two countries “stand ready to work with the international community to provide assistance to the country to combat the virus.”

This meeting takes place in a compelling geopolitical context of repeated missile launches from the Hermit Kingdom, China’s growing assertiveness, and Russia’s war in Ukraine, among others. However, for Biden the confrontation between his country and China is the main geopolitical issue in the coming years.

The leaders pledged to increase cooperation on a wide range of priority issues, including critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health and climate change.

Military tensions aside, this summit contributes to one of his top White House economic priorities: increasing the supply of computer chips. Advanced chips for functions such as mobile telephony, 5G, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence have become a focal point of competition with China.

Therefore, in the first stop of his three-day visit, Biden visited a Samsung semiconductor plant in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, on Friday. Yoon joined him, and Samsung Electronics Vice President Lee Jae-yong gave them a personal tour of the complex.

The visit highlighted the commitment of the two countries to work together to strengthen supply chains amid global shortages of semiconductors due to the pandemic.

Yoon also took advantage of this meeting to announce his country’s participation in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, an initiative proposed by Biden to guarantee secure supply chains, establish the rules of the digital economy and invest in clean, modern and high-level infrastructure. .

During his second day in the capital, Biden went to the Seoul National Cemetery, where he paid tribute to soldiers fallen in combat. This weekend he will review US and South Korean troops. The US military presence in South Korea and Japan provides regional stability and helps deter regional adversaries.

In this first stage of the journey, the American presence will require careful communication by Yoon to try to balance relations with Washington and Beijing, and in turn represents an opportunity for the new South Korean leader to fulfill the promises he made during the election campaign. .

The former prosecutor, with no political experience before becoming president and as the leader of a medium-sized, export-dependent Asia-Pacific country, is learning to balance trade, security and diplomatic priorities at a time of growing rivalry between the two largest economies in the world.

China is by far South Korea’s largest trading partner with more than a quarter of its exports, and Seoul relies on its neighbor to boost key industries like chips and automobiles. On the other hand, Seoul maintains a broad security alliance with the United States dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Yoon’s tenure coincides with a turbulent moment in US foreign policy. Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is prolonged, and he has the support of China. Strategic competition with Beijing is expanding in the Indo-Pacific. Kim Jong Un has so far carried out 16 missile tests in 2022. And to top it off, the Omicron outbreak that Kim has admitted after more than two years claiming that there was no case in the country, which increases the possibility of internal instability in That country.

Yoon has been very clear in stating that he will increase collaboration with democracies, especially with Washington, and will resist autocracies and the formation of an illiberal order, with China as the protagonist. It also appears that he is willing to speed up the pace of military exercises, which current President Moon Jae-in put on the backburner to create incentives for inter-Korean dialogue.

The bilateral relationship of both countries was forged in the struggles of the Second World War and, after it, in the fight against the communist aggressions of China and Russia. The joint battle against common enemies has forged a lasting and vibrant relationship between the two allies, based on mutual respect and common values ​​of democracy, human rights and economic freedom.

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