U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in hold a joint press conference after a day of meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S. on May 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Friday rejected his predecessor’s approach to North Korea and said his goal as president was to achieve “total denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
Speaking 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 one engagement we met on, then I would meet [Kim]”said Biden.” And the commitment must be that there is a discussion of its nuclear arsenal. “
“What I wouldn’t do is what has been done in the recent past,” the president said. “I wouldn’t give him everything he’s looking for, international recognition as legitimate, and I wouldn’t give him what allowed him to move in the direction of appearing more serious about what he wasn’t. at all serious. “
Trump held three high-profile meetings with Kim, one in Singapore in June 2018, another in Hanoi the following February, and the last in June 2019. During their third meeting, Trump took several steps on North Korean soil, becoming the first US president to do so.
The three meetings between Trump and Kim were ostensibly focused on denuclearization. However, rather than reducing its stock, Kim doubled his country’s nuclear arsenal during the four years, Trump was president.
Biden and Moon pledged to work together to continue North Korea’s denuclearization effort.
As part of that process, Biden announced on Friday that Ambassador Sung Kim will serve as the U.S. special envoy to North Korea.
Sung Kim is a career diplomat and former Ambassador to South Korea. He was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Another important topic at Biden and Moon’s meeting on Friday was their countries’ continued response to Covid-19.
South Korea is currently experiencing a shortage of coronavirus vaccines. About 7% of South Koreans have received at least one injection of the vaccine, according to data from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
In contrast, more than 48% of Americans received a single injection, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the press conference, Moon and Biden announced that the United States will provide 550,000 Korean service personnel 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 Korean War veteran.
The visit was Biden’s second time as president welcoming a foreign leader to the White House. And it gave the president the opportunity to show that, in his own words, “America is back.”
After four years of an isolationist approach to Trump’s foreign policy, Moon hailed the new tone.
“The world welcomes America’s return more than ever and maintains its hopes for American leadership,” Moon said on Friday.
But foreign policy is not where Biden has devoted the lion’s share of his attention as president.
The president’s aides say he is primarily focused on implementing his national agenda: two massive proposals, to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and to fund a range of family and social services.
As shown last week, however, events on the ground can quickly force any White House to shift its focus abroad.
More recently, the resumption of fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza has garnered much of the world’s attention over the past 11 days.
Biden said on Friday that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is “the only answer.”
And despite pressure from some Democrats to take a tougher line on Israel’s airstrikes, Biden stressed that nothing in his approach to the longtime US ally had changed.
“There is no change in my commitment to the security of Israel. Period.”
He also praised Egyptian President Abdel Al-Sisi for doing what Biden called “laudable work” in securing Hamas cooperation in a ceasefire that began early Friday morning.