US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a joint press conference after a day of meetings at the White House, Washington, US, on May 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Friday rejected his predecessor’s approach to North Korea, saying his goal as president was to bring about a “total denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
At a joint press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Biden used the example of former President Donald Trump’s high-profile meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to illustrate what he, Biden, would never do.
“If there was a union where we met, I would meet it [Kim]”said Biden.” And the promise has to be that there is discussion about his nuclear arsenal. “
“What I wouldn’t do is what has been done in the recent past,” said the president. “I wouldn’t give him everything he’s looking for, international recognition as legitimate, and give him what enabled him to go in the direction of appearing more serious about what he wasn’t doing at all.”
Trump held three high profile meetings with Kim, one in Singapore in June 2018, another in Hanoi in February and the last in June 2019. During their third meeting, Trump took several steps on North Korean soil and became the first US president to do so.
All three meetings between Trump and Kim ostensibly focused on denuclearization. But instead of shrinking his supply, Kim doubled his country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons during Trump’s four years as president.
Biden and Moon pledged to work together to continue efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
As part of this process, Biden announced Friday that Ambassador Sung Kim will serve as the US special envoy to North Korea.
Sung Kim is a career diplomat and former ambassador to South Korea. He was recently nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Another major topic at Biden and Moon’s meeting on Friday was their country’s continued response to Covid-19.
South Korea is currently struggling with a shortage of coronavirus vaccines. According to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, about 7% of South Koreans have received at least one injection of the vaccine.
In contrast, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 48% of Americans have received one injection.
During the press conference, Moon and Biden announced that the United States would provide 550,000 Korean military with Covid-19 vaccines.
Biden and Moon’s press conference followed an afternoon of meetings and ceremonies, including the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Honor to an American veteran of the Korean War.
The visit marked the second time that Biden received a foreign leader in the White House as president. And it provided an opportunity for the president to show that, in his words, “America is back.”
After four years of Trump’s isolationist approach to foreign policy, Moon welcomed the new tone.
“The world welcomes America’s return and is holding up hopes for America’s leadership more than ever,” Moon said Friday.
But foreign policy is not what Biden has devoted most of his attention as president.
The president’s aides say he is primarily focused on carrying out his domestic agenda: two massive proposals, to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and to fund a range of family and social services.
However, as the past week has shown, events on the ground can quickly force any White House to shift its focus overseas.
Recently, renewed fighting between Israel and the Islamist militant group Hamas in Gaza has consumed much of the world’s attention over the past 11 days.
Biden said Friday that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is “the only answer.”
And despite pressure from some Democrats to crack down on Israeli airstrikes, Biden stressed that nothing has changed in his approach to the US’s longtime ally.
“There has been no shift in my commitment to Israel’s security. Period.”
He also praised the Egyptian president, Abdel Al-Sisi, for doing what Biden said was a “commendable job” in securing Hamas’s cooperation in a ceasefire that started early Friday morning.