Biden offers a message for Kim Jong Un as he wraps up the first leg of his Asia trip

“Hello,” Biden said when asked for his message to Kim Jong Un. “Period.”

The brief greeting reflected the Biden administration’s so far unsuccessful attempts to restart diplomacy with Pyongyang. Attempts to reach the north have gone mostly unanswered. Instead, Kim has stepped up missile launches and may be preparing for a seventh underground nuclear test.

Biden, who landed in Tokyo early Sunday, said he was prepared for such contingencies during his first trip to Asia.

“We are prepared for anything North Korea does. We’ve thought about how we’re going to respond to whatever they do. So I’m not worried,” Biden said.

He was speaking before visiting some of the nearly 30,000 US service members stationed here as the last stop on his visit to South Korea.

Americans deployed to the Korean peninsula have long acted as a signal of US military strength in a region concerned about the nuclear-armed nation to the north. Increasingly, they also act as a reminder of Western might in a region heavily influenced by China.

Biden observed a joint airspace control center where members of the US and South Korean militaries work together to monitor airspace strained by North Korea’s intensifying missile tests.

“Our alliance was formed through the shared sacrifices of the Korean War and several decades later, thanks to you, the Republic of Korea is a strong and prosperous democracy,” Biden told the group, standing near a large screen showing it showed images of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Biden chose not to visit the DMZ on his visit, unlike his predecessors, because he wanted to see the US military on his base.

“All of the American troops that are here and their families, thank you for what you do for our country and our allies,” he said. Later, she joined a group of military families for ice cream.

Earlier in the day, the president met with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun in Seoul, where he highlighted $11 billion in new investment from the Korean automaker, including $5.5 billion to open a new electric vehicle factory in Savannah, Georgia.

One of Biden’s main goals in visiting Asia this week has been to reaffirm his commitment to two key alliances while also looking for ways to further expand cooperation. She will leave South Korea for Japan later that day, bringing with her a similar message of reassurance that America’s longtime ally in the Pacific can depend on the United States as a reliable security and economic partner.

A day earlier, Biden and his South Korean counterpart, President Yoon Suk Yeol, wrote in a joint statement that they were open to expanding joint military exercises that Biden’s predecessor scaled back, believing them to be too costly and provocative. Biden said the cooperation between the two countries demonstrated “our willingness to face all threats together.”

The expanded military exercises will aim to ensure “what is needed to better ensure military readiness and better ensure our ability to work closely together,” a senior administration official said Sunday, though he declined to offer a timeline or a guidance on the scope of enlargement. drills

“Mr. President, the democracy of your country shows the power of being able to deliver on your people,” Biden told Yoon during a toast at the start of a state dinner on Saturday night. “We are proud to say, the generals who stand with me today can also say, that our military has stood side by side, standing on a peninsula for seven decades to preserve peace and make shared prosperity possible.”

It is likely to carry a similar message to Japan, which is also home to a sizeable US military population and maintains a mutual defense treaty with the United States. The increase in provocations by North Korea and territorial appropriations by China have caused deep concern in the country, which has looked to the United States for guarantees about its security.

Biden is expected to visit Emperor Naruhito at his imperial palace before meeting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office last fall, on Monday. Later, he will unveil the outlines of a trade plan for Asia that officials hope can garner broad support. And he will conclude his visit with a summit of the Quad collective, made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, which is seen as an attempt to counter China’s military and economic ambitions.

Japan moves away from post-WWII pacifism as China threat grows

Biden has sought in his trip to link the parallel sets of economic and security issues that have come up in his talks with the leaders. His trade scheme, seen as a scaled-down alternative to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact scrapped by its predecessor, is expected to place a heavy emphasis on resilient supply chains decoupled from Chinese parties, a message he delivered at multiple points in Seoul.

Among the myriad other topics he hopes to raise, including regional security, trade, the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine war, is the question of improving ties between the two countries he will visit this week. Relations between Japan and South Korea have worsened in recent years, a combination of simmering historical resentments and more recent trade actions.

Biden told reporters in Seoul on Saturday that “it is vitally important” that the United States, South Korea and Japan have a “very close trilateral relationship.”

He said the current state of the world, where autocratic regimes like China and Russia have defied democratic norms, demands that the rest of the world stick together, despite lingering differences.

“Things have changed,” Biden said during his news conference. “There is a feeling among the Pacific democracies that there is a need to cooperate much more closely, not only militarily but also economically and politically.”

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