U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks about President Joe Biden’s trip to Korea and Japan at the White House in Washington Wednesday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
U.S. President Joe Biden will tour a Samsung Electronics chip manufacturing complex as his first stop on a three-day visit to Seoul, but a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is not on his itinerary.
Biden’s visit to Samsung’s largest semiconductor plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, is relevant as he is expected to discuss with Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol a global alliance on stronger supply chains, along with other issues like North Korea and the Seoul-Washington alliance.
Biden will be hosted by Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Yoon might join them at the factory — a symbol of a new so-called technological alliance between Seoul and Washington.
In a press briefing Wednesday on Biden’s upcoming East Asia tour, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “President Biden will engage with technology and manufacturing leaders in Korea who are mobilizing billions of dollars in investment here in the United States to create thousands of good-paying American jobs.”
Samsung last year announced a $17 billion investment in Taylor, Texas, to build a new chip fabrication plant. Biden’s visit to the chip manufacturing complex is seen as an acknowledgement of Samsung’s investment and his own pledge to expand U.S. domestic semiconductor manufacturing and shore up semiconductor supply chains.
The Biden administration has been looking for ways to reduce the U.S. reliance on China’s high-tech industries by restructuring supply chains around its democratic allies.
“On this trip, he’ll have the opportunity to reaffirm and reinforce two vital security alliances, to deepen two vibrant economic partnerships, to work with two fellow democracies to shape the rules of the road for the 21st century,” said Sullivan, “and to thank his allies in Korea and Japan for their remarkable and in some ways unexpected contributions to the effort to support Ukraine and to hold Russia accountable.”
Sullivan added that Biden will “highlight the truly global nature of the U.S.-ROK alliance, from climate and energy and technology to economic growth and investment.” ROK is an abbreviation of South Korean’s formal name, the Republic of Korea.
Contrary to reports that Biden will make a trip to the DMZ, the White House said that the president is not expected to visit the heavily militarized border separating the two Koreas.
“They [Biden and Yoon] will have an agenda to talk about a lot of things, including North Korea,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the press briefing alongside Sullivan. “But he’s not going to the DMZ.”
The DMZ is a customary stop for a U.S. president during a first visit to Seoul. Biden made visits to the DMZ previously as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August 2001 and as U.S. vice president in December 2013.
On Saturday, Biden will visit the Seoul National Cemetery to pay tribute to casualties of the 1950-53 Korean War. Yoon and Biden’s summit will begin around 1:30 p.m. at the new Yongsan presidential office. An expanded meeting will immediately follow one-on-one talks. The presidents will hold a joint press conference at 4 p.m. and Yoon will later host an official dinner banquet at the National Museum of Korea at 7 p.m.
A Korea-U.S. business roundtable is expected to be held on Saturday after the summit, hosted by Korean Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The top five conglomerates, Samsung, SK, Hyundai Motor, LG and Lotte, are expected take part in the event. However, Biden is not attending.
The summit comes just 11 days after Yoon’s inauguration.
Biden’s Asia visit comes as the United States is pushing a new economic framework in order to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Sullivan in the press briefing highlighted that President Yoon “campaigned on the platform of strengthening the U.S.-ROK alliance and on improving relations between the ROK and Japan.”
Biden has pushed for stronger trilateral cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, which has been hampered by Korea and Japan’s soured diplomatic relations in recent years due to historical issues and trade restrictions.
Yoon and Biden are also expected to discuss South Korea’s participation in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), set to be launched during Biden’s visit to Japan next week. The IPEF, a comprehensive economic framework for the region proposed by the United States last October, is viewed as a means for members to “decouple” from the Chinese market by finding alternative supply chains.
Sullivan described the IPEF as “a 21st century economic arrangement, a new model designed to tackle new economic challenges from setting the rules of the digital economy to ensuring secure and resilient supply chains to managing the energy transition to investing in clean, modern high-standards Infrastructure.”
The IPEF is expected to go beyond existing free trade agreements (FTAs) that deal with lower tariffs and trade barriers, and establish new trade norms oriented around the United States in the areas of fair and resilient trade; supply chain resilience; clean energy and decarbonization; and tax and anticorruption.
Yoon will attend a virtual meeting launching the IPEF on Tuesday, according to Seoul officials.
Biden’s Tokyo visit from Sunday is to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, meeting. This U.S.-led cooperative forum with Japan, India and Australia is another regional grouping aimed at countering China’s might.
China has responded sensitively to both the Quad and IPEF, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi raised concerns about U.S.-led containment efforts in talks with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi Wednesday.
Regarding the Quad summit in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Wang said, according to his ministry’s spokesman, “What is concerning and alarming is that even though the U.S. leader has yet to travel to Japan, the argument that Japan and the U.S. should join hands in confronting China has already been widely circulated, creating pandemonium.”
“We think putting that on display over four days — bilaterally with the ROK and Japan, through the Quad, through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — it will send a powerful message,” said Sullivan in his press briefing. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.
“But it is not a negative message, and it’s not targeted at any one country.”
A meeting between former President Moon Jae-in and Biden is not expected to take place, according to both sides.
“We don’t have a meeting scheduled with President Moon at this time,” said Sullivan in response to Korean reports that Biden and Moon were scheduled to meet. Moon, whose five-year term ended on May 9, has retired to the countryside.
Asked whether there has been discussion on Moon potentially taking on a “special envoy to North Korea” role, Sullivan replied, “I’m not familiar with any discussions along those lines.”
A Moon aide said that they were also notified and not given any “specific reason” for not holding a meeting, but mentioned Biden’s “tight schedule” in Korea. Moon’s side also denied the idea of a “special envoy” role for Moon.
National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han, center, presides over the first National Security Council (NSC) standing committee meeting to review major diplomatic and security issues, including U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Korea, at the presidential office bunker in Yongsan, central Seoul Thursday. [NEWS1]
BY SARAH KIM [[email protected]]