US, South Korea ‘deeply concerned’ about situation with North Korea

Washington

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., on Capitol Hill on Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden Biden says the U.S. and South Korea are “deeply concerned” about the situation with North Korea.

He also announced he will deploy a new special envoy to the region to help refocus efforts on pressing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program, career diplomat Sung Kim. Previously, Kim served as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Moon said the move by Biden “reflects the firm commitment of the U.S. for exploring diplomacy and its readiness for dialogue with North Korea.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed “America’s return” to the world stage after his meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday and said both leaders pledged to work closely toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Moon came to Washington seeking renewed diplomatic urgency by the U.S. on curbing North Korea’s nuclear program, even as the White House signaled that it is taking a longer view on the issue. High on Biden’s list for the meeting as well: coordination in vaccine distribution, climate change and regional security concerns spurred by China.

Their meeting was only Biden’s second in-person session with a foreign leader because of the coronavirus pandemic.

After the meeting, Biden and Moon answered questions on a range of topics including the recently passed anti-Asian hate crime law and North Korea.

On hate crimes, Biden recommitted to cracking down on the rising rate of anti-Asian hate crimes.

“I affirmed to Pres. Moon today… that we’re committing and we’re going to stay committed to stopping the hatred based on this bias,” said Biden.

He added, “Quite frankly, I’ve been ashamed, ashamed at the way some Americans have responded.”

Biden even commented on the popular music genre, K-Pop which has grown significantly in popularity in the United States.

“K-pop fans are universal. Now, I can tell those who laugh know what I’m talking about,” said Biden.

Their formal talks in the afternoon ran long, Biden said, noting his staff interrupted repeatedly to warn them they were over time. “But I enjoyed the meeting so much that it caused us to move everything back,” Biden said, as he highlighted the two countries’ “long history of shared sacrifice.”

Moon said “The world is welcoming America’s return,” an oblique reference to former President Donald Trump’s attempts to disengage on some aspects of American diplomacy.

The White House announced last month that it had completed a review of North Korea policy and Biden would veer from the strategies of his two most recent predecessors, rejecting both Trump’s deeply personal effort to win over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Barack Obama’s more hands-off approach.

But the administration has yet to detail what its third-way effort to try to prod the North to abandon its nuclear program will look like.

Moon started his day at the White House complex by meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris and top Biden advisers. Moon also participated in a Medal of Honor ceremony for Ralph Puckett, a 94-year-old Army veteran who was celebrated for his gallantry during the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

A South Korean presidential official said a joint U.S.-South Korean statement will embrace a 2018 agreement between Moon and the North Korean leader that vowed to improve relations and work for complete denuclearisation of the peninsula.

“We had made much contribution to the U.S. policy review, and endorsing the agreement could be a sign of their respect and acknowledgment,” the official told reporters in Washington.

In addition to talks about North Korea, Biden is expected to use the meeting to press South Korea to adopt a more ambitious 2030 target for curbing carbon emissions and to urge Seoul to play a greater role in countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Moon, meanwhile, is expected to seek Biden’s assistance with helping South Korea boost its coronavirus vaccine supply. South Korea has vaccinated only about 5% of its population.

Biden is expected to lobby Moon to take a strong stance on China’s activity toward Taiwan and other provocative moves Beijing has made in the region. Biden has sought to rally Pacific allies to coordinate on China, which Biden sees as the United States’ fiercest economic competitor.

Moon on Thursday visited Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington and laid a wreath at a memorial to Americans killed during the Korean War. He also made a visit to the U.S. Capitol to meet with the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

All reporting by AP’s Aamer Madhani. Reuters’ reporting by David Brunnstrom, Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; editing by Tim Ahmann, Grant McCool and Philippa Fletcher. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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