US President Joe Biden kick-started his first leg of the Asian tour with his visit to South Korea on Friday as Washington looks to boost its alliance in the region which has been witnessing rising Chinese commercial and military power.
This is Biden’s first trip to the Asian region after he became the president.
Biden will also visit US and South Korean troops, but will not make the traditional presidential trek to the fortified frontier known as the DMZ between South and North Korea, the White House said.
After his three-day trip, Biden will next travel to Japan for bilateral talks with the country’s prime minister Fumio Kishida.
Apart from that, he will also be meeting the leaders of Japan, Australia and India for the Quad gathering and launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), an agreement that seeks to set standards on supply chains, worker protections, decarbonization and anti-corruption.
Earlier this week at a White House reception, Biden said that his trip was intended “to affirm the importance of our Indo-Pacific alliances” and “celebrate the indispensable partnerships” in the region, including through cultural ties.
Before his trip began, the White House said that Biden’s aim is to send a “powerful message” to China and others about what the world could look like if democracies “stand together to shape the rules of the road”.
Biden’s Asia trip is also “fundamentally about” building personal ties with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters en route to South Korea.
“In both cases, he’s looking for the opportunity just to spend time to get to know these leaders … so that when they need to pick up the phone in a crisis or to respond to a major world event, there’s a baseline of trust and understanding and almost like a common operating language,” he said.