President Joe Biden held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, stressing during the conversation that his administration is focusing on engagement with Asia. However, it seems that rapid progress in solving problems related to China and North Korea is not yet worth waiting for.
Upon arriving at the White House, President Moon said that South Korea and the United States share a “soul” that was born during the Korean War in the early 1950s, a military conflict between the North and the South in which Washington supported Seoul.
South Korea “will always support America on its way out of the Covid-19 crisis and to protect the liberal, democratic international order,” Moon said, speaking with Vice President Kamala Harris before meeting with Biden.
The growing power of China, which claims to be the leader in Asia, and North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which is a kind of powder keg, were discussed on Friday during the talks. The Biden administration admits it doesn’t have a simple answer to any of these questions.
Against this background, Washington’s focus is on rebuilding alliances that were destroyed during the presidency of Donald Trump, when the White House often treated its long-time geopolitical partners as dishonest business competitors.
Moon became the second head of state to visit the White House since Joe Biden came to power. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last month paid the first visit to Biden.
The US-South Korea relationship “is the foundation of the security and prosperity of Northeast Asia and the free and open Indo-Pacific region,” said a senior White House official, who asked not to be named. “President Biden will confirm this firm belief.”
In memory of the deep and complex history of US-South Korean relations, Moon and Biden presented the Medal of Honor – the highest US military award – to a 94-year-old American veteran of the Korean War.
The new US administration has not yet decided on its strategy for North Korea, which has created problems for the United States for decades.
“Our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the administration source said.
However, the White House announced its rejection of attempts to reach a “big deal” with Pyongyang, which was sought by Donald Trump. However, the administration may be simply demonstrating “strategic patience” in diplomatic jargon. We are talking about a “verified practical approach… We understand why previous initiatives have led to difficulties in the past, and we have tried to learn from this,” the source said. Asked by a reporter whether Biden is going to follow Trump’s lead and hold high-profile but ultimately inconclusive summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that she does not expect the issue to “be top of the agenda” for the president.