News ID: 321791
Published: 0704 GMT May 21, 2022

Biden, Yoon vow to deter North Korea but offer COVID-19 aid

Biden, Yoon vow to deter North Korea but offer COVID-19 aid
REUTERS

U.S. President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol hold a joint news conference in Seoul on May 21, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his new South Korean counterpart agreed on Saturday to hold bigger military drills and deploy more U.S. weapons if necessary to deter North Korea, while offering to send COVID-19 vaccines and potentially meet Kim Jong-un.

Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol said their countries' decades-old alliance needed to develop not only to face North Korean threats but to keep the Indo-Pacific region "free and open" and protect global supply chains, according to Reuters.

The two leaders met in Seoul for their first diplomatic engagement since the South Korean president's inauguration 11 days ago.

Yoon had sought more assurances that the United States would boost its deterrence against North Korea. In a joint statement, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons if necessary.

The two sides agreed to consider expanding their combined military drills, which had been scaled back in recent years in an effort to lower tensions with the North.

The United States also promised to deploy "strategic assets" – which typically include long-range bomber aircraft, missile submarines, or aircraft carriers – if necessary to deter North Korea, according to the statement.

Both leaders said they were committed to denuclearising North Korea and were open to diplomacy with Pyongyang.

Biden said Washington had offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, which is combating its first acknowledged outbreak. The U.S. has imposed tough economic sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear programs.

North Korea reported more than 200,000 new patients suffering from fever for a fifth consecutive day on Saturday.

The ongoing COVID wave, declared last week, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million, which has refused outside help and kept its borders shut.

The North Korean leader had held a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's powerful politburo early on Saturday to check the COVID situation and responses made over the nine days since the outbreak emerged.

 

 

 

 

   
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