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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 24)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:14 May 24, 2021

Successful summitry
Allies agree on vaccine partnership, dialogue with North

President Moon Jae-in walked away with a successful result from his summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. It is good to see the two leaders narrow their differences over North Korea and agree on how to deal with the reclusive state. They also agreed to form a global partnership for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

What's notable is that Biden promised to uphold an agreement signed by his predecessor Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit in Singapore in June 2018. Biden had earlier hinted at discarding this as part of his efforts to undo the policies of Trump. However, he changed his stance as far as North Korea was concerned.

Such a change is seen as a clear message to the North that the U.S. will maintain policy coherence whoever occupies the White House. Biden also agreed to respect the Panmunjeom Declaration which was issued in April 2018 during the summit between Moon and Kim to promote inter-Korean reconciliation.

The two presidents agreed to solve the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomacy and dialogue based on these previous inter-Korean and Washington-Pyongyang commitments. The U.S. appears to have made a practical and realistic decision to pick up where Trump left off to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Now the two leaders should work together more closely to lead the North back to the stalled denuclearization talks. We welcome Biden's appointment of Acting Assistant Secretary of State Sung Kim as U.S. special envoy for the North. The move is seen as an overture for dialogue toward Kim's regime. We call on Pyongyang to return to negotiations soon and move toward denuclearization and peace.

It is fortunate that Moon and Biden managed to avoid any disagreement over the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad, an informal strategic alliance composed of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India. Washington had apparently wanted Seoul to join the group aimed at containing China's rise. But both sides compromised without revealing any discord over the issue. Moon only acknowledged the importance of open, transparent and inclusive regional multilateralism including the Quad.

Another important outcome of the summit was a vaccine partnership agreement. This partnership will enable South Korea to emerge as a global vaccine production hub by combining its production capacity with advanced U.S. technology. As Moon said, the project can help accelerate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing vaccine supply to the world. Although the two allies failed to reach a vaccine swap deal, Biden promised to provide vaccinations for all 550,000 South Korean troops in a symbolic move to strengthen the bilateral alliance.

Moon and Biden also laid the groundwork for broadening the alliance by stepping up cooperation in industrial fields. Four Korean firms ― Samsung Electronics, LG Energy Solution, SK Innovation and Hyundai Motor ― announced plans to invest a combined $39.4 billion (44 trillion won) in the production of semiconductors, electric cars, and batteries in the U.S.

Yet, the outcome of the summit alone cannot automatically guarantee a better alliance and partnership between the two countries. Moon and Biden should engage in closer consultations and coordination to implement their commitments faithfully to realize their common goals.

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