U.S., Japan, South Korea vow unified response to North Korea threat

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – President Biden and the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Sunday promised a unified and coordinated response to North Korea’s Threatening Nuclear and Ballistic Missile ProgramsMr Biden saying the three-way partnership is “even more important than it has ever been” as North Korea steps up its provocations.

Mr Biden met separately with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol before the three sat together on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.

The American president began by offering his condolences for a crowd surge at Halloween festivities in Seoul that killed more than 150 people, saying the United States mourned South Korea. The meeting was heavily focused on recent escalations by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, although Biden said the three leaders would also discuss strengthening supply chains and preserving peace across the Strait. Taiwan, while relying on countries’ support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Mr Biden had also planned to seek Kishida and Yoon’s views on handling China’s assertive posture in the Pacific region on the eve of his face to face meeting with President Xi Jinping.

“We face real challenges, but our countries are more aligned than ever, more prepared than ever to meet those challenges,” Biden said. “I therefore look forward to deepening the cooperative ties between our three countries.”

President Biden attends a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 13, 2022.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Both Yoon and Kishida discussed ongoing displays of aggression from North Korea, which has fired dozens of missiles in recent weeks. The launches include an intercontinental ballistic missile 10 days ago that triggered evacuation alerts in northern Japan, and as allies warn of an imminent risk of the isolated country carrying out its seventh nuclear test in the weeks to come.

Referring to the influx of crowds that occurred in Seoul’s Itaewon district, Yoon said through an interpreter, “At a time when South Koreans are crying in deep sadness, North Korea has pushed such provocations which lay bare the true regime of Kim Jong Un’s leanings.”

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday that Biden would use the meetings to bolster the three countries’ joint response to the dangers posed by North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“What we would really like to see is enhanced trilateral security cooperation where the three countries come together,” he said. “This is extremely true with regard to the DPRK because of the common threat and challenge we all face, but it is also true, more broadly, regarding our ability to work together to build peace and stability. global in the region.”

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have skyrocketed in recent months as the North continues its weapons demonstrations and the United States and South Korea have launched intensified joint defense drills. Earlier this month, the South Korean military said two B-1B bombers trained with four US F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-35 jets during the final day of drills. air force spouses “Vigilant Storm”. It was the first time since December 2017 that the bombers had been deployed to the Korean Peninsula. The exercise involved a total of around 240 combat aircraft, including advanced F-35 fighter jets from both countries.

North Korea responded with its own show of force, flying large numbers of warplanes inside its territory.

The Biden administration said it sent repeated requests to negotiate with North Korea without preconditions on curbing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but Kim’s government failed to respond.

Mr Biden has said he plans to pressure Xi to use China’s unique influence over North Korea to limit its aggressive behavior, in what is expected to be a high-profile meeting between leaders on the margins of the Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

China “has an interest in playing a constructive role in containing North Korea’s worst tendencies,” Sullivan said on Saturday. “Whether they choose to do so or not is of course up to them.”

Mr Biden told reporters on Sunday that he had “always had direct talks” with Xi, and that had kept either of them from “mistaking” their intentions. Their meeting comes weeks after Xi cemented its grip on the Chinese political system with the conclusion of the Community Party congress in Beijing which earned him a revolutionary third term as head.

“His situation has changed, to state the obvious, back home,” Biden said of Xi. Mr Biden argued that his people had it too, saying that after the Democrats retained control of the Senate in the mid-term elections, “I know that I am coming stronger”.

Monday’s meeting will be the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since Mr. Biden was elected. In the past, US officials have expressed frustration that lower-level Chinese officials have proven unable or unwilling to speak on Xi’s behalf, and hope the face-to-face summit will lead to progress on areas of interest. commonality – and, more importantly, a shared understanding of each other’s limitations.

“I know him well, he knows me,” Mr Biden said. “We just have to figure out where the red lines are and what are the most important things for each of us, over the next two years.”

As president, Mr. Biden has repeatedly blamed China for human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, Beijing’s crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive business practices, military provocations against self-governing Taiwan, and differences over Russia’s prosecution. of its war against Ukraine.

Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s stance on Taiwan – which Beijing seeks to unify with the communist mainland – as undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese president also hinted that Washington wants to stifle Beijing’s growing influence as it tries to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.

Mr Biden also spoke briefly with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who sought his own meeting with Xi this week in a bid to ease Chinese sanctions against his country.

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