Biden embarks for Asia with a strong focus on China and North Korea

With much of the Biden administration’s attention this year focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden turns his attention to Asia on Thursday as he embarks on a visit to South Korea and Japan, a trip that the White House, “comes at a crucial time.” moment” for its foreign policy agenda.

The trip will mark the president’s first trip to the region since taking office and will feature a strong focus on North Korea and China. While the president has campaigned hard to make China a primary focus of his foreign policy, the war in Ukraine has been on Biden’s foreign agenda of late.

While the White House can hope the trip shows that the president has not taken his eyes off the challenge posed by China, Ukraine will continue to feature prominently on the trip.

“President Biden has united the free world in defense of Ukraine and in opposition to Russian aggression,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. “He remains focused on ensuring that our efforts in those missions are successful, but he also intends to use this moment, this pivotal moment, to assert bold and confident American leadership in another vital region of the world: the Indo-Pacific.”

Biden will begin his journey in Seoul and will conclude the visit in Tokyo. Sullivan said this will be an “opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen two vital security alliances” and to “deepen two vibrant economic partnerships.”

“The message that we are trying to send on this journey is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can be like if the world’s democracies and open societies come together to shape the rules of the road, to define the security architecture. . of the region, to reinforce strong, powerful historical alliances, and we believe that showing that for four days bilaterally with the Republic of Korea and Japan, through the Quad, through the Indo-Pacific economic framework, will send a powerful message. I think that message will be heard everywhere.”

Asked to what extent the message of this trip is a warning to China and its aggression towards Taiwan, Sullivan said the message “will be heard in Beijing, but it’s not a negative message and it’s not directed at any country.” .”

During his stay in South Korea, President Biden is expected to meet with President Yoon Seok-youl, “communicate with technology and manufacturing leaders” who are “mobilizing billions of dollars in investment here in the United States” , and will visit the United States and South Korea. troops that are “shoulder to shoulder in defense” of the threats posed by North Korea.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden will not visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on this trip. He visited the area as vice president in 2013 and while serving in the Senate.

Sullivan, however, went on to repeat that US intelligence continues to show that North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, who stepped up missile launches in 2002, could launch a long-range missile test, a nuclear test, or both in the days before, on, or after the president’s trip to the region.

“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility of such a provocation occurring while we are in Korea or Japan,” Sullivan told reporters.

He said the United States is coordinating with allies in South Korea and Japan, as well as with its counterparts in China.

“Obviously, we are prepared to make short-term and long-term adjustments to our military posture as necessary to ensure that we are providing defense and deterrence to our allies in the region and then responding to any North Korean provocation.”

In Japan, Biden will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss economic relations and global security issues, including North Korea, and launch a new economic initiative for the region.

“The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, IPEF, as we affectionately call it, is a 21st century economic arrangement, a new model designed to meet new economic challenges,” said Sullivan. “From setting the rules of the digital economy, to ensuring secure and resilient supply chains, managing the energy transition, and investing in clean, modern, high-end infrastructure.”

And while in Tokyo, Biden will also participate in a second in-person Quad summit with his counterparts from Australia, India and Japan. They last saw each other in September at the White House.

Molly Nagle of ABC News contributed to this report

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