- The Washington Times
Friday, May 21, 2021

President Biden on Friday hailed the “shared sacrifice” of the United States and Korea as he hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House for a series of high-stakes meetings.

“Our history of shared sacrifice and our cooperation is vital to maintaining peace and stability in [a] critical region of the world,” Mr. Biden said at the start of one of the meetings.

Mr. Biden said staff kept pressing him to end an earlier private gathering with Mr. Moon but that it went so well the planned schedule for the day ended up getting pushed back.

SEE ALSO: Kamala Harris tells South Korea’s Moon of U.S. vision for Pacific ‘unconstrained by coercion’

Mr. Moon referred to America as Korea’s “everlasting friend” and said he looked forward to future cooperation.

He extended congratulations “on how the U.S. is becoming an example for the world as it succeeds in overcoming COVID-19, achieving economic recovery, and uniting a nation under President Biden‘s leadership.”

The two leaders were scheduled to take questions from the press later Friday.

Mr. Biden thanked Mr. Moon for participating in a Medal of Honor ceremony earlier in the day for retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. honoring Col. Puckett’s heroic actions during the Korean War.

“The strength and the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea was born out of the courage, determination, [and] sacrifice of the Korean troops fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops,” Mr. Biden said at the ceremony. “Having you here today is an important recognition of all that our nation has achieved together - both of them - in the decades since.”

Mr. Moon is hoping his meetings in Washington this week can jump-start denuclearization talks on the Korean peninsula, a topic of discussion that undoubtedly will come up on Friday.

His trip to Washington is Mr. Moon‘s first official overseas trip since traveling to China in December 2019.

Meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris earlier Friday, Mr. Moon said he supports the Biden administration’s ambitious efforts to tackle climate change and that his country plans to coordinate closely with the U.S. to denuclearize and establish “permanent peace” on the Korean peninsula.

“You have devoted your life to promoting democracy and enhancing human rights of minority groups, women, people of color, and the underprivileged,” he told the vice president.

Mr. Moon worked some of Mr. Biden’s campaign language into his remarks with Ms. Harris, praising the administration for restoring the “soul” of the country and “building back better.”

The vice president said it’s more important than ever for the two countries to work together.

“President Joe Biden and I are confident that together we can promote a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region — a region that is unconstrained by coercion and anchored in international rules and order,” Ms. Harris said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that North Korea would be a central part of the discussions between Mr. Biden and Mr. Moon.

“I would say that South Korea is an incredibly important partner to the United States,” Ms. Psaki said. “Hence, the president is having one of his first bilats in person with the president of South Korea, and I think that sends a clear message.”

It’s the second time Mr. Biden has hosted a foreign leader for official in-person talks at the White House since taking office in January. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited last month.

Ms. Psaki said climate change and China also would be topics of discussion Friday.

She said, though, that securing an in-person meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is probably not high on Mr. Biden’s priority list.

The Biden administration has signaled it is trying for a middle ground on North Korea — somewhere in between the Trump administration’s aggressive, direct outreach and the Obama administration’s more hands-off approach.

On Thursday, Mr. Moon met with congressional leaders and traveled to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“I hope that a series of dialogues between our two countries … will deepen our bilateral cooperation in not only establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, but also prevailing over COVID-19, reviving the economy and responding to climate change,” Mr. Moon said at the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

• Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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