PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — President Joe Biden will meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea on Sunday to coordinate their response to North Korea’s looming nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and to seek input on managing China’s assertive stance in the Pacific. on the eve of his scheduled face-to-face with President Xi Jinping.
Biden will hold separate meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. The three leaders will then sit together on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.
The meetings come as North Korea has fired dozens of missiles in recent weeks, including an intercontinental ballistic missile 10 days ago that triggered evacuation warnings in northern Japan, and as its allies warn of an imminent risk of the isolated country’s seventh nuclear test. would perform in the coming weeks.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday that Biden plans to use the meetings to bolster the three countries’ joint response to the dangers posed by North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“What we would really like to see is enhanced trilateral security cooperation where the three countries all come together,” he said. “That is absolutely true regarding the DPRK because of the common threat and challenge we all face, but it is also more broadly true of our ability to work together to improve overall peace and stability in the region.”
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have skyrocketed in recent months as the north continues its weapons demonstrations and the US and South Korea launched intensified joint defense exercises. Earlier this month, the South Korean military said two B-1B bombers had been trained with four US F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-35 fighter jets during the final day of joint air force exercises “Vigilant Storm”. It was the first time since December 2017 that the bombers were deployed on the Korean peninsula. The exercise involved a total of about 240 fighters, including advanced F-35 fighter jets from both countries.
North Korea responded with its own show of force, flying large numbers of fighter jets within its territory.
The Biden administration has said it has sent repeated requests to negotiate with North Korea without any conditions limiting its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but Kim Jong-un’s government has not responded.
Biden has said he plans to pressure Xi to use China’s unique rule over North Korea to curb his aggressive behavior as part of what is expected to be a broad bilateral meeting on the fringes of the group’s 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
China “has an interest in playing a constructive role in curbing North Korea’s worst tendencies,” Sullivan said on Saturday. “Whether they choose to do this or not is, of course, up to them.”
Biden told reporters on Sunday that he has “always had clear discussions” with Xi, and that has prevented any of them from making “misjudgments” of their intentions. Their meeting comes weeks after Xi tightened his grip on the Chinese political system with the shutdown of the Beijing Community Party Congress, which landed him a norm-breaking third term as leader.
“His circumstances, to be clear, changed at home,” Biden said of Xi. Biden insisted his did, too, saying that after Democrats retained control of the Senate in the midterm elections, “I know I’ll come out stronger.”
Monday’s meeting will be the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since Biden was elected to the White House. US officials have expressed frustration in the past that lower-ranking Chinese officials are unable or unwilling to speak on Xi’s behalf, and hope the in-person summit will allow for progress in areas of mutual interest — and, more importantly, a shared understanding of each other’s limitations.
“I know him well, he knows me,” Biden said. “We just need to figure out where the red lines are and what the most important things are for each of us over the next two years.”
As president, Biden has repeatedly indicted China for human rights violations against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, Beijing’s crackdown on democratic activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against self-ruled Taiwan and disagreements over Russia’s prosecution of its war against Ukraine. .
Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s stance on Taiwan — which Beijing appears to eventually unite with the communist mainland — as undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese president has also suggested that Washington wants to suppress Beijing’s growing power as it tries to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.
Biden also held a withdrawal meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who this week has sought his own meeting with Xi in a bid to ease Chinese sanctions against his country.
Sullivan said Biden would also ask leaders of Japan and South Korea what issues they want him to talk to Xi, though it wouldn’t be the primary discussion at their trilateral meeting.
“One thing President Biden definitely wants to do with our closest allies is look ahead at what he plans to do,” Sullivan said, “and also ask the leaders of (South Korea) and Japan, ‘What would you like to do? that I pick up? What do you want me to go in with?’”
Kim reported from Nusa Dua, Indonesia. TBEN writer Josh Boak contributed from Baltimore.