U.S., South Korean leaders willing to engage with North Korea

U.S., South Korean leaders willing to engage with North Korea


U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in injected urgency into attempts to engage North Korea in talks over its nuclear weapons, with President Biden saying in late May 2021 that he would meet its leader, Kim Jong Un, under the right conditions.

President Biden and Moon said the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is their goal, with the U.S. leader stressing that he was “under no illusions” about the difficulty of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

“We both are deeply concerned about the situation,” President Biden said at a joint news conference, adding that he and Moon are willing to engage diplomatically with the North and “to take pragmatic steps to reduce tensions.” (Pictured: U.S. President Joe Biden, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in speak with reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., in May 2021.)

North Korea has rebuffed U.S. calls for diplomacy since President Biden took office in January 2021. His predecessor, President Donald Trump, had three summits with Kim.

Kim refused to give up nuclear weapons but imposed a testing freeze. North Korea has not tested a nuclear bomb or launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, although experts believe its arsenal has steadily grown.

President Biden said he would be willing to meet Kim if he agreed to discuss his nuclear program and if U.S. advisors first met with their North Korean counterparts. President Biden and Moon also reaffirmed the strong U.S.-South Korea alliance. Moon was the second foreign leader — after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — to visit the White House since President Biden took office, and Biden said their conversations were those of “old friends.”

They also discussed China and Taiwan, which has complained of repeated military pressure from Beijing.

“We’ve shared the view that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is extremely important, and we agreed to work together on that matter while considering special characteristics in relations between China and Taiwan,” Moon said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks for the support, saying the democratic island “has always played a key role in regional stability and prosperity.”

President Biden welcomed multibillion-dollar investments by South Korean firms in strategic U.S. sectors, such as microchips, where he has said the U.S. and its allies must outcompete Beijing.

In their summit statement, the two countries agreed to develop open and transparent 5G and 6G telecommunication networks and to increase global supplies of microchips for automobiles. They also agreed to explore creation of a supply chain task force for high-tech manufacturing.

Moon said the two countries agreed to a vaccine partnership that would combine U.S. expertise and Korean production capacity. He said this would help supply COVID-19 vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region, while President Biden said the U.S. would provide vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean troops.