South Korea’s menacing neighbor to the north will cast a shadow over President Joe Biden’s second day in Asia.
After paying tribute to soldiers who died in the Korean War, Biden will have a long chat with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Yoon took office less than two weeks ago after a hotly contested election in March in which he pledged to bolster South Korea’s defenses against North Korea.
Strengthening the US commitment to “broad deterrence” is the first issue Yoon wants to discuss with Biden, a recently elected presidential adviser told reporters ahead of the trip.
Their summit, the first a US president has visited in South Korea after an election, is also an opportunity for Biden and Yoon to develop a personal relationship. This will help Yoon deliver on another campaign promise to deepen the alliance between the two countries and contribute to Biden’s goal of building a coalition in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s growing influence.
The use of US military power, especially its nuclear forces, to protect South Korea has been a mainstay of the security alliance between the two nations since the end of the Korean War.
The engagement has become more prominent due to the advancement of North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.
North Korea has tested several missiles in recent months, including nuclear-capable missiles potentially capable of reaching South Korea, Japan or the United States
Since Biden took office, the administration has been unable to open lines of communication with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
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North Korea could conduct a missile or nuclear test during Biden’s five-day trip to Asia, according to US intelligence assessments.
“North Korea has a long history — going back decades, at this point — of missile testing, both to advance their capabilities and to provoke provocations,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. journalists as Biden embarked on his five day trip to asia Thursday. “We know what we will do to respond to that.”
Nearly 29,000 American soldiers are deployed on the Korean peninsula. Former President Donald Trump has proposed the “complete withdrawal of US forces from South Korea”. according to former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Trump wanted the troops to leave unless South Korea increased its share of the costs, former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his 2020 memoir.
Since 1991, the United States has had only conventional weapons in its military installations in South Korea. But he maintains the threat of in-kind retaliation against North Korea through his “nuclear umbrella.”
At the Seoul National Cemetery on Saturday, Biden participated in a wreath laying ceremony to honor fallen soldiers, many of whom died fighting alongside US forces during the Korean War. At the altar of the Memorial Tower, which enshrines tablets documenting soldiers who died in war but whose bodies were never found, Biden sprinkled three pinches of incense ashes into an urn on a red carpet.
When Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, visited Washington, D.C. last year, he laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden-Yoon meeting: North Korea casts shadow over talks with South Korea