[연합시론] Biden’s visit to Korea should be an opportunity to further strengthen and expand Korea-US relations

picture explanation[그래픽] Main trajectories during US President Biden’s visit to Korea

US President Joe Biden will make an official visit to South Korea on the afternoon of the 20th for three days and two nights. President Biden, who took office in January last year, will visit Asia for the first time in a year and four months, and will visit Korea first before Japan. President Biden visits Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province this afternoon. On the 21st, the first South Korea-US summit with President Yoon Seok-yeol will be held at the Presidential Office in Yongsan. The summit will take place 11 days after President Yoon took office, and it is the fastest Korea-US summit since the inauguration of a South Korean president. At the meeting table, North Korea’s nuclear response, economic security, and regional cooperation are on the core agenda. The ROK and the United States expect that this will serve as an opportunity to advance the alliance centered on security into a comprehensive strategic alliance by extending it to the economic and security field. Regarding the Korea-US summit on the way to work on the same day, President Yoon said, “Because there are many changes in the international community, it will be an opportunity for the US-Korea relationship to become stronger and to lead to an alliance that encompasses a wider range.”

What stands out in President Biden’s visit to Korea is a visit to Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor factory scheduled for this afternoon. Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy director of the National Security Office, said at a briefing on the 18th that President Biden’s visit to Korea will be an opportunity to strengthen the ROK-US alliance into a comprehensive strategic alliance. I think the Korea-U.S. technology alliance will be added this time,” he said. High-tech, including semiconductors, is one of the battlefields where the fierce competition for hegemony between the US and China takes place, so this visit is expected to serve as an opportunity for the two countries to engage in strategic cooperation in the high-tech field as well. During his visit to Japan from the 22nd to the 24th, President Biden also officially announced the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), known as an economic consultative body that brings together countries in the region to block China’s economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region. President Yoon attends this summit by video. An official from the presidential office explained at a briefing the previous day, “Now, to properly manage the supply chain, we need a kind of alliance system.”

What is problematic, however, is that China is wary of Korea’s participation in the IPEF. In a video conference with Foreign Minister Park Jin on the 16th, Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, said, “Starting from each and common interests, we oppose the negative tendencies of decoupling and network disruption, and maintain stable and smooth global industrial and supply chains. must,” he said. This is interpreted as a request for South Korea not to participate in the US-led supply chain that excludes China. The scale of trade between Korea and China is larger than the scale of South Korea-US and South Korea-Japan combined. As we have experienced China’s economic retaliation for THAAD in the past, this is an important point to be dealt with wisely. An official from the presidential office said that the US-led IPEF did not exclude China and reconfirmed that supply chain cooperation between Korea and China is possible. In that regard, there is no need for China to overreact. The Korean government also needs to further strengthen the relationship of trust by consulting through various channels so that China does not react too sensitively in the future.

Tensions are rising as it is known that North Korea may additionally launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or conduct a nuclear test during or immediately after President Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan. Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop said at the National Assembly on the 19th that “there is a clear trend in preparing for an ICBM launch and a nuclear test.” North Korea has already launched 16 missiles this year. North Korea hopes not to launch another missile or nuclear test. Moreover, while North Korea is suffering from the spread of Corona 19, there is nothing to gain from provocative actions such as nuclear tests and missile launches. Rather, it will only aggravate public opinion about North Korea in the international community. North Korea’s provocations make it stand out that the ROK-U.S. security alliance needs to be further strengthened. It is hoped that President Biden’s visit to Korea will strengthen the US-ROK relationship as President Yoon mentioned and upgrade it to an alliance that encompasses a much broader scope.

[연합뉴스]

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