Yoon and Biden agree to increase security and economic cooperation
This marks the first visit to the center by a U.S. president and comes after the two leaders in their first summit talks Saturday agreed to expand the "scope and scale" of combined military exercises and training. They also committed to the deployment of U.S. strategic military assets "in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary" to reinforce deterrence in the face of North Korea's "destabilizing activities," according to their joint statement.
The KAOC at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, situated in an underground bunker, is a key strategic command post for directing aerospace operations within the Korean Peninsula. Yoon is the first Korean commander-in-chief to visit the KAOC in some 13 years.
"I believe that the KAOC is the critical center to together respond to the DPRK's increasing nuclear and missile threat and also a symbol of the robust ROK-U.S. alliance," Yoon said to Korean and American service members. "I would like to note with appreciation the KAOC as the center of Korea's three-axis system to defend against the North Korean missile threat, and I would like to mention the importance of your role and responsibility to defend the security of this peninsula."
He referred to the North by the acronym for its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The South Korean three-axis system refers to defenses against North Korean nuclear and missile threats: a Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, Korean Air and Missile Defense system and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.
"You are the frontline of everything we are concerned about," said Biden alongside Yoon to the troops. "You represent the commitment of our two countries made each other and the strength of the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance. Our alliance was formed through shared sacrifice of the Korean War, and now seven decades later, thanks to you, the Republic of Korea is a strong, thriving and innovating democracy and our alliance grows stronger every single day."
On Friday afternoon, Biden arrived for a three-day official visit on Air Force One at Osan Air Base and was welcomed by Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.
Biden immediately made a trip to the Samsung Electronics chip complex in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, the first by an American president. Yoon joined him at the semiconductor plant, and they were guided by Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong. The two leaders vowed to work together to strengthen supply chains for critical components, such as semiconductors.
On Saturday, Biden paid a visit to Seoul National Cemetery in Dongjak District, southern Seoul, to pay tribute to casualties of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Later in the afternoon, Biden arrived at the new Korean presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, and was welcomed by Yoon at the entrance.
The two entered the building on a red carpet, and Biden wrote in the guest book, "Thank you for the hospitality and the Alliance."
Their first summit talks began with a small group meeting that focused on North Korea issues and alliance matters. The two leaders held brief one-on-one talks, flanked only by interpreters, and then were joined by their aides for an expanded meeting to discuss economic security and supply chain risks.
The talks lasted 110 minutes, slightly longer than expected. The two leaders especially focused on ways to expand relations to a "global comprehensive strategic alliance," broadening coordination in military and security affairs, shared values and economic and technological cooperation.
At the beginning of their talks on the fifth floor of the presidential office, Yoon said to Biden, "Today we're living in the era of economic security, where economy is security and vice versa. The transformation of the international trade order and the disruption of global supply chains are having a direct impact on the livelihood of our people."
He called for continued cooperation in strategic industries, such as chips and electric vehicle (EV) batteries, "in order to expand mutual investment and to attain our common goal, which is building a resilient supply chain."
"For decades, our alliance has been a linchpin for regional peace and growth and prosperity," Biden said. "And it's been vital to deterring attacks from the DPRK. And, today, our cooperation is essential to preserve the stability on the global stage as well. With this visit, we're taking the cooperation between our two countries to new heights."
Immediately after their talks, they then held a press conference.
"At this summit, we shared the goal of developing the ROK-U.S. alliance into a global, comprehensive, strategic alliance, and we discussed relevant actions to that end," Yoon said during the press conference. "Moreover, we engaged in a candid conversation, building friendship and trust," adding he and Biden saw "eye-to-eye on so many fronts."
Biden said, "President Yoon and I committed to strengthening our close engagement and work together to take on challenges of regional security, including addressing the threat posed by the DPRK by further strengthening our deterrence posture and working toward a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he added, referring to the official name of North Korea.
The two had a united message on North Korea.
"A sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula is underpinned by a principled and consistent policy towards North Korea," said Yoon. "In lockstep coordination with the Biden administration, I commit to resolutely safeguard peace on the Korean Peninsula and encourage North Korea to come forward for dialogue and engage in practical cooperation."
He stressed the "common goal of the complete denuclearization of the DPRK," and said that there is "no compromise for security," adding that "strong deterrence against North Korea is paramount."
Yoon outlined his vision to normalize inter-Korean relations through an "audacious plan" aimed at a denuclearized and prosperous Korean Peninsula, and Biden in turn expressed his support for inter-Korean cooperation.
Biden stressed the advantages of an economic partnership with the United States and said an independent analysis this week "projected that the American economy is poised to grow at a faster rate than the Chinese economy for the first time in 45 years, since 1976."
Pointing to the U.S. relationship with South Korea being "closer than they've ever been," Biden said, "Our businesses are blazing new trails together. And it all goes to my core belief, something I've said for a long time: It's never a good bet to bet against the United States of America."
The leaders called to step up "practical cooperation" in semiconductors, batteries, civil nuclear power, space development, cyberspace and other emerging industries, said Yoon.
The presidents agreed to establish an economic security dialogue for timely communication and cooperation on supply chains, advanced science and technology and other areas of economic security.
The leaders further committed to cooperation on critical technologies, energy security, global health and climate change.
Biden thanked Korea for its strong support for Ukraine and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine "isn't just a matter for Europe" but "an attack on democracy and the core international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity."
He said that Seoul and Washington are "standing together" as a part of a global response "to condemn Russia's flagrant violations of international law, and to hold Russia accountable."
On Saturday evening, Yoon hosted an official dinner banquet at the National Museum of Korea, near the presidential office, attended by some 80 government officials, business leaders and other dignitaries.
The meal included bibimbap, a Korean rice dish with vegetables, to represent harmony between the two countries, and a wine produced by the Dana Estates winery, owned by a Korean in Napa Valley, California.
Yoon's wife, first lady Kim Keon-hee, briefly greeted Biden ahead of the official dinner at the museum. She did not attend the dinner as her U.S. counterpart, first lady Jill Biden, didn't visit.
On Sunday morning, Biden met with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in central Seoul.
After Yoon and Biden's visit to the KAOC, the U.S. leader greeted American troops and their family members at the Osan base. Yoon separately met Korean troops at the Master Control and Reporting Center (MCRC) at Osan, which monitors activities of North Korean aircraft and missiles and operates guided weapons to intercept them.
Later Sunday afternoon, Biden departed from the Osan Air Base to Tokyo, where he was set to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, meeting. This U.S.-led cooperative forum with Japan, India and Australia is a regional grouping seen as countering China's assertiveness.
Biden notably didn't visit the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the inter-Korean border, a site he has visited twice before, including as vice president in 2013.
However, on Saturday evening, Biden had a short phone conversation with former President Moon Jae-in and called him a "good friend," according to an aide to Moon.
The leaders agreed to "initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula," according to the joint statement.
In recent years, military exercises between the United States and South Korea have been scaled down amid diplomatic overtures toward North Korea by the Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump governments and because of the Covid-19 pandemic. North Korea calls such drills rehearsals for an invasion.
In the statement, Biden committed to deterrence "using the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities."
They agreed to reactivate the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG), a high-level consultative mechanism which has not met since early January 2018.
"In the past, when it came to extended deterrence, we just talked about a nuclear umbrella," Yoon said during the press conference. "But beyond that, there could be many other aspects, including fighters, bombers and missiles. So, we engaged in discussions regarding the timely deployment of such strategic assets."
Addressing North Korea's nuclear threat, he said "combined military exercises, I believe, should be stepped up in many aspects."
Yoon and Biden further discussed South Korea's participation in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), set to be formally established during Biden's visit to Japan next Monday.
"Both leaders agree to work together to develop a comprehensive IPEF that will deepen economic engagement on priority issues, including the digital economy, resilient supply chains, clean energy, and other priorities geared toward promoting sustainable economic growth," the statement said.
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.
Seoul officials stress that the IPEF is not meant to exclude any particular country.
Yoon and Biden agreed to direct their National Security Councils to launch an economic security dialogue "aimed to align the bureaucratic and policy approaches between the two governments."
The two further recognized the potential for cooperation in the defense industry and agreed to strengthen partnerships in the defense sector supply chains, joint development and manufacturing.
They also discussed the "importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as an essential element in security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region," according to their statement.
Biden said in the press conference Saturday said that he and Yoon committed to "promoting stability across the Taiwan Straits” and “ensuring freedom of navigation, including in the South China Sea and beyond."
Their joint statement also underscored the importance of trilateral cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan for responding to North Korea challenges, and "protecting shared security and prosperity, upholding common values, and bolstering the rules-based international order."
The United States is not considering adding South Korea to the U.S.-led Quad security forum, a senior U.S. official told Reuters Sunday, who was quoted as saying, "The goal right now is to develop and build out what has already been laid out."
Yoon previously expressed interest in working more closely with the Quad grouping.
"The key achievement was firstly affirming our vision for a global comprehensive strategic alliance," said Kim Sung-han, director of the presidential National Security Office (NSO), told reporters Saturday after the talks. "The South Korea-U.S. alliance contributes not only to the Indo-Pacific region but to global security and prosperity based on universal values such as freedom and human rights."
The leaders called for an "alliance in action," said Kim. In response to the North Korean nuclear and missile threats, he said they "will specify the U.S. extended deterrence measures in detail and restart the EDSCG consultative body as soon as possible."
As a present to Biden for visiting Seoul, Yoon gave him a wooden table decorated with traditional Korean mother-of-pearl patterns of butterflies and chrysanthemums, said his presidential office Sunday. A persimmon orange peony vanity was also presented, along with an exhibition book of American painter Mark Rothko, prepared by the first lady for Jill Biden.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]