Joe Biden Arrives in Asia
U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Asia for the first time as president. He’s traveling to South Korea and Japan, but the subtext of the trip is that it’s all about China.
Joe Biden touched down in Asia on May 20 for the first time in his presidency, kicking off a high-profile trip meant to bolster ties with regional allies and launch a new trade initiative.
During the four-day long tour, Biden will have a key opportunity to reinforce partnerships with South Korea and Japan and reaffirm the region’s longstanding importance to U.S. foreign policy—especially with regard to China.
“China fits into this as a primary target, there’s really no better way to put it,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center, who noted that Beijing has remained a top priority on Washington’s national security agenda. The “U.S. is trying to strengthen its coordination and cooperation with allies and partners in order to deal with China more effectively,” she said.
Biden’s first stop is Seoul, where he will meet with the new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol; from there, he will head to Japan for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The tour will culminate with a Quad summit in Tokyo, convening Biden, Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the winner of Australia’s Saturday election.
In Tokyo, Biden is also expected to officially unveil the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a new U.S.-led initiative that would be designed to strengthen trade and supply chains in the region.
“The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can look like if the democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road,” said U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think
Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.”
But neighboring North Korea could disrupt hopes for a smooth trip. Both U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that Pyongyang could be plotting to conduct a nuclear or missile test to coincide with the tour, and Sullivan said the White House is bracing for the worst-case scenarios. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” he said.
If Pyongyang conducted a test during the trip, it “will add another layer of urgency,” said Sun. But at the same time, she added, “a North Korea provocation is not going to be a big surprise because even before the Biden administration, I think people were anticipating that North Korea is going to act out.”