Covid-19, Joe Biden offers vaccines to North Korea

The United States and South Korea intend to strengthen their military cooperation in order to counter the « menace » growing in North Korea. This is what the presidents of the two countries, Joe Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol, said on Saturday in Seoul. The two leaders met during Mr. Biden’s first trip to Asia as president. They nevertheless reached out to Pyongyang to help it deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. And this while the regime has accelerated its military program and seems to be preparing a nuclear test.

Joint military training

“Given the evolution of the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea, editor’s note), the two leaders agree to begin discussions with a view to expanding the scope and scale of exercises and joint military training in and around the Korean Peninsula”, according to a joint statement issued after the summit. The statement comes as South Korean intelligence services have warned that North Korea has completed preparations to carry out a nuclear test, which would be the seventh in its history and the first in five years.

Joe Biden in South Korea, under threat from Pyongyang

Washington has not ruled out a «provocation» of Pyongyang during or just after Mr. Biden’s tour of Asia. Adding to the uncertainties, North Korea, whose population is not vaccinated against Covid-19, is currently facing an epidemic outbreak, with nearly 2.6 million cases and 66 deaths, according to the latest official figures published. Saturday. MM. Yoon and Biden expressed “their concern about the recent Covid-19 outbreak” in North Korea, and “stand ready to work with the international community to provide assistance”they said in their joint press release.

Proposal remained unanswered

Mr Biden said Washington had offered vaccines to Pyongyang but had not “didn’t get a response”. The way in which this health crisis will influence the military decisions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is the great unknown that Americans and South Koreans are trying to clarify. Either way, the decision whether or not to carry out a nuclear test will be key in setting the course for US-South Korean relations during President Yoon’s five-year term, the former analyst at AFP told AFP. CIA Soo Kim.

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“If Kim conducts a trial run during Biden’s visit, it will indeed help both countries find a greater rationale for working together on the North Korea issue”, she says. North Korea has ramped up its weapons testing since the start of the year. Talks to disarm him have stalled since a failed summit in 2019 between Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump. On Saturday, Mr Biden said he would only agree to a possible meeting with the North Korean leader if the latter was ” sincere “.

While tensions with North Korea were top of the conversation, Mr. Biden’s main objective at Saturday’s summit was to establish “a strong personal relationship” with Mr. Yoon, who came to power on May 10, a US official said before the meeting. Like Japan, South Korea is seen as a key player in the US strategy to contain China and maintain what Washington calls “the free and open Indo-Pacific”.

In his first public remarks after arriving in South Korea, Mr Biden said the US-South Korea alliance was “a pillar of peace, stability and prosperity” in the world.

South Korean investments in the United States

Mr. Biden welcomed Samsung’s decision to build a new semiconductor factory in Texas, which will open in 2024. In the state of Georgia (southern United States), the governor also announced on Friday that the group South Korean automaker Hyundai was going to build an electric vehicle and battery plant. All good news for the Democratic leader, whose party fears a defeat in the midterm elections in November due to discontent among American voters, as prices rise and the post-Covid economic recovery is overdue.

Mr. Biden will fly to Japan on Sunday, where he will meet the Emperor, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and participate in the Quad summit, this diplomatic format which brings together the United States, Japan, India and Australia .

In Japan, the American military bases of Okinawa are still controversial

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