Biden advances economic and security goals as he ends South Korea visit | Georgian Magazine

JOSH BOAK and AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Joe Biden focused on both business and security interests Sunday as he ended a three-day trip to South Korea by first showing Hyundai’s pledge to invest at least $10 billion in the United States and then mingling with the troops at the nearest military base.

Biden’s visit to the Osan Air Base, where thousands of US and South Korean troops monitor the rapidly evolving nuclear threat from North Korea, was his last stop before arriving in Tokyo late Sunday.

“You are on the front line, right here in this room,” the president said at the command center, with maps of the Korean Peninsula projected onto screens on the wall.

It was the day that the two key messages that Biden is trying to deliver on his first trip to Asia as president came together.

Political cartoons of world leaders

Political cartoons

At a time of high inflation and simmering domestic discontent, Biden underlined his global mission to strengthen the American economy by convincing foreign companies like Hyundai to start new operations in the United States. And he wanted to show solidarity with nervous Asian allies who live in the shadow of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and have become skeptical of U.S. security commitments while President Donald Trump has been in office.

Earlier Sunday, Biden shrugged off questions about any potential provocations from North Korea, such as testing a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile during his trip, saying, “We’re ready for whatever North Korea does.”

Asked if he had a message for the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, Biden responded sharply: “Hello. Period.”

It was another sharp departure from Trump, who once said he “fell in love” with Kim.

Biden made his first appearance on the day, along with Hyundai Chairman Euxiun Chung, to highlight the company’s expanded investment in the United States, including $5.5 billion for an electric vehicle and battery plant in Georgia.

“EVs are good for our climate goals, but they are also good for jobs,” Biden said. “And they’re good for business.”

Chang also said his company will spend another $5 billion on artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles and other technologies.

A major investment by a South Korean company in the United States is a reflection of how countries are leveraging their longstanding military ties in a broader economic partnership.

Earlier in his trip, Biden visited a computer chip plant operated by Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, which plans to build a $17 billion manufacturing facility in Texas.

Biden made expanding economic cooperation with South Korea a priority, saying on Saturday that “it will bring our two countries even closer by working together even more closely than we already do and help strengthen our supply chains, protect them from shocks and give our economies a competitive advantage.”

The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February forced a deeper rethinking of issues of national security and economic alliances. Coronavirus outbreaks have led to shortages of computer chips, cars and other commodities that the Biden administration says can eventually be remedied by boosting production domestically and with trusted allies.

Hyundai’s Georgia plant is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year, with construction scheduled to start early next year and production in 2025 near the unincorporated city of Ellabel.

But the Hyundai plant shows there are trade-offs as Biden pursues his economic goals.

The president has tried to link electric vehicle manufacturing to automakers and unions, and during his trip, he encouraged Korean companies to hire unions for their U.S. operations.

However, there was no guarantee that workers at the Hyundai plant in Georgia would be unionized.

Georgia is a “right to work” state, meaning that workers are not required to join a union or pay a union as a condition of employment.

A Hyundai spokesman did not respond to an email asking if the Georgia plant would be unionized. A senior Biden administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said there was no contradiction between Biden encouraging investors to join unions while his administration is doing “everything it can” to encourage investment and create jobs in the US.

Biden also visited the demilitarized zone on the north-south border, a regular stopover for US presidents while visiting Seoul. According to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Biden visited the DMZ as vice president and was more interested in the Osan airbase.

While at the base, Biden chatted with military personnel and their families at a bowling alley and indulged in his passion for ice cream – twice. First chocolate chips, then vanilla and chocolate.

Biden and Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Saturday announced they would consider expanding joint military exercises to detect the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Biden and Yoon’s push for containment, who are in office less than two weeks away, marks a departure from the leaders of their predecessors. Trump considered canceling the exercise and expressed affection for North Korea’s Kim. And South Korea’s last president, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to dialogue with Kim at the end of his term, despite being repeatedly rejected by the North.

Yoon campaigned promising to strengthen relations between the US and South Korea. At a Saturday dinner for Biden, he reiterated that his goal was to take the relationship with North Korea “beyond the security margins” that had long dominated the relationship.

“I will try to develop a new vision for the future of our alliance with you, Mr. President,” Yun said.

During the Japan leg of Biden’s trip on Monday, he will meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and lay out his vision for negotiations on a new trade deal, the Indo-Pacific Economic Agreement.

Shortly after arriving in Tokyo on Sunday evening, Biden stopped at the residence of the US chief of mission to attend a ceremony to open a room for Norman Mineta, the late US Secretary of Transportation.

Mineta, a former Democratic congressman who served in the cabinets of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, died earlier this month. He was the son of Japanese immigrants, and he and his family were among those held by the US government in Japanese internment camps during World War II.

The central theme of the trip is strengthening US alliances in the Pacific to counter Chinese influence in the region.

But debate continues within the administration about whether to eliminate some of the $360 billion in Trump-era tariffs on China. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently said some tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers more than China.

On Tuesday, Japan hosts Biden at the Quad summit, a strategic alliance of four countries that also includes Australia and India. Then the President of the United States will return to Washington.

Associated Press contributors Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville of Washington contributed to this report.

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