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(News Focus) Yoon-Biden summit opens new, broader chapter for S. Korea-U.S. alliance

Politics 20:53 May 21, 2022

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- The overarching theme of Saturday's first summit between President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden was the expansion of the two countries' military alliance to a "global comprehensive strategic alliance" covering everything from semiconductors and batteries to a united front against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Yoon and Biden went into the summit amid concern in both South Korea and the United States that North Korea could test a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile during the U.S. president's trip to the region.

Both sides acknowledged the threat, leading to an agreement to begin discussions on expanding the scope of combined military exercises between the countries and Biden's reaffirmation of the U.S. "extended deterrence" commitment to South Korea.

But while North Korea may have been front and center, the two leaders also sought to send a clear message that South Korea and the U.S. were prepared to do more together, both for their own countries and for the world, by working together to strengthen supply chains, beat the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle climate change, among other things.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (R) and U.S. President Joe Biden speak during a joint news conference after holding talks at the presidential office in Seoul on May 21, 2022. (Yonhap)

"The key achievement was that first of all, we affirmed our vision for a global comprehensive strategic alliance," Kim Sung-han, director of the presidential National Security Office, told reporters.

"We realized a South Korea-U.S. alliance that contributes not only to the Indo-Pacific region but to global security and prosperity through universal things, such as freedom and human rights," he said.

Technological cooperation has emerged as a key pillar of the bilateral relationship, which Biden underscored by visiting a Samsung Electronics semiconductor plant immediately after arriving in the country Friday.

Yoon reciprocated by announcing South Korea's participation in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), an initiative Biden plans to formally launch next week to ensure supply chain resilience, set the rules of the digital economy, and invest in clean energy and infrastructure, among other things.

"By participating from the start and taking part in the rule-setting process, we'll work to establish rules that work in our favor," Kim said.

The IPEF has upset China, because it is seen as a framework that is intended to exclude the country from global supply chains amid its growing economic and military competition with the U.S.

"There wasn't a single phrase in the two leaders' joint statement that said we were excluding China from supply chains," Wang Yun-jong, presidential secretary for economic security, said.

The two countries agreed to work together to develop their nuclear power industries, begin negotiations for a bilateral defense procurement deal and contribute to the international COVID-19 response through global vaccine partnerships.

They also agreed Seoul would host a Global Health Security coordination office and that the two countries would work closely together to meet their targets for greenhouse gas reduction and carbon neutrality.

hague@yna.co.kr
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