Washington, May 19 (EFE).- United States president Joe Biden began Thursday the first trip to Asia of his term, with the aim of counteracting the rise of China and under the threat of a possible nuclear or ballistic weapons test by North Korea during his visit.
Upon coming to power in January 2021, Biden targeted Asia as his top foreign policy priority, but a series of factors, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have forced him to keep his attention on Europe, a continent he has visited three times.
His fourth official trip will take him to South Korea, where he will land Friday for a three-day stay, and to Japan until May 24.
“America’s alliances in Europe and in Asia keep us – and I would argue the world – strong and secure,” Biden said shortly before his departure, during an appearance at the White House with the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson.
The trip comes amid heightened tensions with North Korea, and the White House has warned there is a “real possibility” North Korea will launch a long-range missile or conduct its first nuclear test in five years during Biden’s visit to the region.
“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan. We are coordinating closely with our allies in both Korea and Japan on this,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Seoul.
The US is prepared to make “adjustments to our military posture as necessary to ensure that we are providing both defense and deterrence to our allies in the region and that we’re responding to any North Korean provocation,” Sullivan added.
The North Korean government has ignored invitations from Seoul and Washington to resume dialogue on denuclearization, which has been stalled since the failed Hanoi summit in 2019.
When asked about that, Sullivan said so far North Korea has not shown any intention to engage in meaningful or constructive diplomatic contact, so there is no prospect of negotiations resuming in the short term.
The White House has ruled out that Biden could visit the DMZ, the 4-kilometer-wide demilitarized strip that separates North and South Korea.
In Seoul, the president will meet with his new South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, and with technology and manufacturing leaders who invest in the US in addition to visiting American and South Korean troops in the area.
On Sunday the 22nd, Biden will travel to Tokyo, where in addition to meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, he will participate in the second summit of leaders of the Quad group, which brings together the US, Australia, Japan and India and seeks to confront Chinese strength.
Biden will also formally introduce the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a regional cooperation initiative designed to enhance trade and investment between the US and the region, as well as strengthen the resilience of supply chains. EFE