US, Japan and South Korea pledge united response to North Korea threat

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — President Joe Biden and leaders of Japan and South Korea vowed on Sunday a unified, coordinated response to North Korea’s impending nuclear and ballistic missile programs, with Biden stating that the three-way partnership is “even more important than it has “ever been” when North Korea steps up its provocations.

Biden met separately with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol before all three sat together on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.

The US president began by expressing condolences for the massive influx of people during Halloween festivities in Seoul that killed more than 150 people, saying the US had mourned with South Korea. The meeting focused heavily on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent escalations, although Biden said the three leaders would also talk about strengthening supply chains and keeping peace in the Taiwan Strait as they build. on the countries’ support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. .

US President Joe Biden, center, meets South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, Sunday, November 13 2022, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Alex Brandon/TBEN)

Biden also planned to seek input from Kishida and Yoon on managing China’s assertive stance in the Pacific ahead of his face-to-face meeting with President Xi Jinping.

“We face real challenges, but our countries are more aligned than ever and better prepared to meet those challenges than ever,” Biden said. “So I look forward to deepening the cooperation ties between our three countries.”

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Both Yoon and Kishida discussed continued displays of aggression by North Korea, which has fired dozens of missiles in recent weeks. The launches included an intercontinental ballistic missile 10 days ago that triggered evacuation warnings in northern Japan as allies warn of an imminent risk of the isolated country carrying out its seventh nuclear test in the coming weeks.

Referring to the massive influx that took place in Seoul’s Itaewon district, Yoon said through an interpreter: “At a time when South Koreans are deeply saddened, North Korea pushed through with such provocations that reveal the true nature of Kim Jong Un’s expose regime. tendencies.”

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday that Biden would 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 in the Korean peninsula have skyrocketed in recent months as the north continues its weapons demonstrations and the US and South Korea have 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.

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North Korea fires more missiles as US bombers fly over south

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 into using China’s rule over North Korea to curb his aggressive behavior as part of what is expected to be a broad meeting between leaders on the fringes of the Group of 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 that 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.”

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To underscore that, several heads of state approached Biden in Cambodia to tell him that they had been closely monitoring US midterm campaigns and told the president the results were a testament to the strength of US democracy, Sullivan told reporters Air Force One traveled to Indonesia. on Sunday evening.

Monday’s meeting will be the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since Biden was elected. US officials have expressed frustration at lower-level Chinese officials being unable or unwilling to speak on Xi’s behalf, and hope the personal 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 spoke briefly 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.

Kim reported from Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The Bharat Express News writers Josh Boak in Baltimore and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.