SEUL – President Joe Biden on Sunday focused on both business interests and security, concluding a three-day visit to South Korea, demonstrating Hyundai’s promise to invest at least $ 10 billion in electric vehicles and related technologies in the United States.
At his last stop before heading to Japan, Biden visited Asan Air Force Base, where U.S. and South Korean troops are monitoring the rapidly evolving North Korean nuclear threat.
“You are the front line, right here in this room,” Biden said at the command center with maps of the Korean Peninsula projected through screens on the wall. After that, Biden ate two servings of ice cream and talked to the military and their dependents at the bowling base.
Biden’s joint visit to Asia was aimed at demonstrating US commitment to the region’s security. Earlier on Sunday, he brushed aside questions about any possible provocation from North Korea, such as testing nuclear weapons or missiles during his trip.
“We are ready for anything that North Korea will do,” he said.
Asked if he had a message for the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, Biden offered a truncated answer.
“Hello,” he said. “Type.”
It was another sharp departure from his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who once said he “fell in love” with Kim.
Biden’s first appearance that day was along with Hyundai CEO Eushung Chung to highlight the company’s expanding investment in the United States, including $ 5.5 billion for an electric car and battery plant in Georgia.
“Electric vehicles are good for our climate purposes, but they are also good for work,” Biden said. “And they’re good for business.”
Chang also said his company would spend another $ 5 billion on artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles and other technologies.
The South Korean company’s major U.S. investment was a reflection of how countries are using their long-standing military ties in a broader economic partnership.
Earlier in his trip, Biden visited a computer chip factory run by Samsung, a Korean electronics giant that plans to build a $ 17 billion manufacturing plant in Texas.
Biden has made expanding economic cooperation with South Korea a priority, saying on Saturday that “it will bring our countries even closer by cooperating even more closely than we already do, and will help strengthen our supply chains, protect them from shocks and make our economy competitive. advantage ”.
The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February forced a deeper rethink of national security and economic alliances. Coronavirus outbreaks have led to a shortage of computer chips, cars and other goods, which, according to the Biden administration, can eventually be remedied by increasing domestic production and with reliable allies.
The Hyundai plant in Georgia is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year, and construction is scheduled to begin early next year and production in 2025 near the unincorporated city of Elabel.
But the Hyundai plant shows that there are trade-offs if Biden sticks to his economic program.
The president tried to link the production of electric cars for automakers with unions, and during his trip he called on Korean companies to hire union labor for their operations in the United States.
However, there was no guarantee that the workers of the Hyundai Georgia plant would be united in a union.
Georgia is a state with a “right to work”, which means that as a condition of employment, workers are not required to join a union or make payments to a union.
A Hyundai spokesman did not respond to an email asking if the Georgia plant would be merged into a union. A senior Biden administration spokesman, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said there was no controversy between Biden, who encourages investors to work with unions, while his administration is doing “everything it can” to encourage investment and create jobs in USA.
Biden conveyed a visit to the demilitarized zone on the north-south border that happened to U.S. presidents during a visit to Seoul. Instead, Biden, who visited the DMZ as vice president, was more interested in visiting Asan Air Force Base, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Biden and Korean President Yoon Suk Yol announced on Saturday that they would consider expanding joint military exercises to deter a nuclear threat from North Korea.
The push for restraint on the part of Biden and Yun, who has been president for less than two weeks, marks a shift of leaders from their predecessors. Trump thought about abandoning the exercises and expressed commitment to North Korea’s Kim. And South Korea’s last president, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to dialogue with Kim until the end of his term, despite repeated refusals from the North.
Yun conducted the election campaign, promising to strengthen relations between the United States and South Korea. At Saturday’s dinner in Biden’s honor, he reiterated that his goal was to move issues “beyond security” with North Korea, which has long dominated relations.
“I will try to develop a new vision of our future alliances with you, Mr. President,” Yun said.
Biden leaves for Tokyo later Sunday. On Monday, he will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumiya Kishido and outline his vision for negotiating a new trade agreement called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
The central theme of the trip, the first to Asia as President of Biden, is to tighten U.S. alliances in the Pacific to counter China’s influence in the region.
But the Biden administration is still debating whether to repeal some of the $ 360 billion in tariffs on China under Trump. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently said some tariffs do more harm to American business and consumers than China.
On Tuesday, Japan will host Biden at the Quad summit, a strategic alliance of four countries that also includes Australia and India. The US president will then return to Washington.
Associated Press writers Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville of Washington contributed to this report.
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