US President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in hold a joint press conference after a day of meeting at the White House in Washington, USA, on May 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden denied his predecessor’s stance on North Korea on Friday, saying his goal as president was to achieve “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 President Kim Jong-Un to illustrate what he, Biden, would never do.
“If there was a commitment that we would have met, I would meet [Kim]”said Biden.” And the obligation must be that there will be discussions about its 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 anything that would allow him to move in a direction where he seems to be more serious that he wasn’t serious at all.”
Trump held three high profile meetings with Kim, one in Singapore in 2018, one in Hanoi the following February, and the last in June 2019. During their last meeting, Trump took several steps on North Korean soil and became the first American president to do so .
All three meetings between Trump and Kim were reportedly focused on denuclearization. But instead of reducing his inventory, Kim doubled his country’s nuclear arsenal in the four years Trump was president.
Biden and Moon are committed to working together to continue efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
As part of that process, Biden announced on Friday that Ambassador Sung Kim would serve as the U.S. special envoy to North Korea.
Sung Kim is a professional diplomat and former ambassador to South Korea. He was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Another major issue during the Biden and Moon meeting on Friday was their countries’ continued response to Covid-19.
There is currently a shortage of coronavirus vaccines in South Korea. About 7% of South Koreans have received at least one shot of the vaccine, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
In contrast, more than 48% of Americans received a shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the press conference, Moon and Biden announced that the US would provide 550,000 Korean service members with Covid-19 vaccines.
The Biden and Moon press conference followed an afternoon of meetings and ceremonies, including the awarding of the President’s Medal of Honor to a US Korean War veteran.
The visit was Biden’s second time as president who hosted a foreign leader in the White House. And it was an opportunity for the President to show that, in his words, “America is back”.
After four years of Trump’s isolated foreign policy approach, Moon welcomed the new tone.
“The world welcomes America’s return and holds its hopes for America’s leadership high more than ever,” Moon said Friday.
In foreign affairs, however, Biden did not devote the lion’s share of his attention as President.
The president’s advisors say he is mainly focused on implementing his national agenda: two massive proposals to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and fund a range of family and social services.
As the past week has shown, local events can quickly force any White House to turn its attention overseas.
Recently, the renewed fighting between Israel and the militant Islamic group Hamas in Gaza over the past 11 days has drawn a lot of world attention.
Biden said Friday that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was “the only answer”.
And despite pressure from some Democrats to toughen Israel’s air strikes, Biden insisted that his approach to the US’s long-standing ally has not changed.
“My commitment to Israel’s security does not change. Period.”
He also commended Egyptian President Abdel Al-Sisi for doing what Biden called “laudable work” to secure Hamas cooperation on a ceasefire that began early Friday morning.