WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce Wednesday he is increasing demonstrations of military might in the Indo-Pacific and expanding collaboration with South Korea in hopes of deterring an attack by North Korea.
In exchange, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will reaffirm his nation’s commitment to not develop its own nuclear weapons, according to a senior administration official who previewed the announcement on the condition of anonymity.
The joint announcement is expected to be a centerpiece of the new initiatives on cyber security, economic investments and more that the leaders will roll out during Yoon’s state visit marking the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the two nations.
“We believe that that statement will send a very clear and demonstrable signal of the United States’ credibility when it comes to its extended deterrence commitments to the Republic of Korea and to the people of Korea,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.
Biden greeted Yoon and Kim Keon Hee, first lady of the Republic of Korea, on the White House South Lawn during an arrival ceremony Wednesday morning that honored Korean War veterans as military bands played the anthems of both nations.
“Today we celebrate the ironclad alliance, the shared vision of our future and the deep friendship that unites the Republic of Korea and the United States,” Biden said.
Yoon, speaking through an English translator, said the U.S.-South Korean alliance is “not a transactional relationship” based on self-interests but “an alliance of values, standing together to safeguard the universal value of freedom.”
Stay in the conversation on politics: Sign up for the OnPolitics newsletter
‘Let’s finish the job’: President Joe Biden announces much awaited 2024 reelection bid
South Korea benefits from the protection of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella,” the main deterrent against attacks from North Korea. But North Korea’s aggressive missile testing and lack of interest in denuclearization talks has raised concerns in South Korea that more needs to be done.
The creation of a joint consultation group is intended to increase the confidence in the U.S. of not just Seoul but also the South Korean people. The South Korean government will be given more insight into U.S. military planning and a voice in those deliberations, according to a senior administration official. But the U.S. will maintain sole authority over when nuclear weapons are used.
The U.S. will also increase public demonstrations of strength, such as sending a ballistic missile submarine on visits to South Korea for the first time since the 1980s.
Yoon took office last year after a closely contested election in which he vowed to bolster South Korea’s defenses against North Korea.
Second state visit: This is only the second state visit Biden has hosted. The first was last fall’s summit with French President Emmanuel Macron. The last state visit with South Korea was hosted by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Why now: The two nations are marking the 70th anniversary of their alliance. In addition, the U.S. has been trying to strengthen its relationships in Asia as a counterbalance to China’s increasing economic and military might. During his visit to South Korea last May, Biden said “revitalizing” the alliance between the nations was one of his “key foreign policy priorities.”
The schedule: In addition to their private meetings Wednesday, Biden and Yoon will address the media and attend a state dinner, a diplomatic honor reserved for the U.S.’s closest allies. Yoon will address a joint House and Senate meeting Thursday. While he’s in the United States, Yoon also has trips to NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and is meeting with the CEOs of entertainment companies like Disney, Netflix and Sony Pictures.
Economic collaboration and conflict: The Biden administration has touted South Korea’s billions of dollars in economic investments in the U.S., including in electric vehicle manufacturing, one of the ways the administration wants to strengthen supply chains while creating jobs. But South Korea is considered about how U.S. restrictions on technology exports to China will affect South Korean companies that make semiconductors there.
Pentagon leak complicates state visit
The state visit was complicated by the leak of classified documents that included evidence the U.S. has been spying on allies. It was an embarrassment for the Biden administration and caused Yoon political headaches back home, making it more important that Yoon be able to show he’s getting something from the summit. That could include announcements on expanded economic cooperation or more efforts to deter North Korea’s belligerence.
‘Embarrassing wrench’: How Pentagon leak complicates South Korean president’s state visit with Biden
Ukraine likely to be discussed
Leaked intelligence indicates top advisers to Yoon were concerned ammunition South Korea agreed to sell the U.S. to refill its stockpiles would wind up in Ukraine. South Korea does not send lethal weapons to countries at war, but the trove of documents —which U.S. officials have neither verified nor disavowed— suggested that Yoon’s government was considering a policy shift.
Yoon told Reuters last week it would be difficult for South Korea to stay on the sidelines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “if there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war.”
It’s too early to tell if South Korea is ready to amp up support beyond humanitarian assistance, said Ellen Kim, an expert on U.S.-Korea relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But given the increased cooperation between Russia and North Korea, South Korea finds it “increasingly difficult to avoid entrapment in Ukraine,” Kim said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden visit with South Korean president focuses on nuclear deterrence