The meeting between the American President, Joe Biden, and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, received face-to-face at the White House, Friday, May 21, testifies to the importance given by the American administration to East Asia and the consolidation of ties with partners in this region. Mr. Moon is the second foreign leader, after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, received in Washington since President Biden took office in January. There are several emergencies in relations between Washington and Seoul such as the North Korean issue, China or the Covid-19 pandemic.
After emphasizing “Extraordinary strength” alliance with South Korea, Mr. Biden said ” very worried “ of the nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang. The US president called for an approach “Pragmatic”, while recognizing the difficulty of negotiations. For his part, Mr. Moon, ardent promoter of the inter-Korean dialogue and eager to conclude a “Irreversible peace” with the North before the end, in May 2022, of his non-renewable mandate, welcomed the “Return from America” on the world stage and praised the “Desire for dialogue” of Washington with Pyongyang.
Mr. Biden finalized a new approach to the North Korean question in April, focusing on step-by-step advances, both distinct from the “Strategic patience” the Obama administration (2008-2016) and the quest for “Big deal” dear to Donald Trump (2016-2020). Mr. Trump had met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un three times, without actually advancing the nuclear issue, despite signing a declaration at the 2018 summit in Singapore, mentioning the “Complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
Joe Biden, who appointed Sung Kim – former ambassador in Seoul and specialist in Korean issues – special envoy on this issue, did not rule out meeting Kim Jong-un. He also says he is ready to work on the basis of the Singapore declaration. The resumption of discussions remains hypothetical, however. Pyongyang criticized the policies of the new US administration, calling it« hostile » and of “Fallacious”.
As with Mr. Suga, Mr. Biden also touched on China, which he sees as a strategic and economic rival to the United States. “In the same way as the Maison Bleue [présidence sud-coréenne] wishes to see Joe Biden join his position on North Korea, the White House has as a priority to bring President Moon to come closer to the American position on China and Japan “, observed, before the meeting, Michael J. Green, who was Asia director of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration (2000-2008).
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