Biden to work with South Korean president on North Korea

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Joe Biden held phone talks on Thursday during which they vowed to strengthen the bilateral alliance and develop a North Korea strategy, according to South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

The call marked the first time the presidents have spoken since Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Moon has characterized the new Biden administration as presenting an opportunity to restart a faltering peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

“President Moon said that the Republic of Korea and the United States will work together to advance the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said at a briefing. The Republic of Korea is the official name of South Korea.

“The two leaders shared the recognition that it is necessary to come up with a comprehensive strategy toward North Korea as soon as possible,” Kang said.

After high-profile diplomatic efforts under former US President Donald Trump that included three meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been at a stalemate since a February 2019 summit failed to produce an agreement.

Inter-Korean relations have also frosted over, with the North cutting off all communications and blowing up a shared liaison office in the border city of Kaesong in June.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month that Washington would review its “entire approach and policy toward North Korea” and would look at “what can be effective in terms of increasing pressure on North Korea to come to the negotiating table.”

Moon and Biden also reaffirmed the U.S.-South Korea alliance, saying that it “contributes to the promotion of democracy, human rights and multilateralism” in the Indo-Pacific region, Kang said.

The two leaders said they would work together on issues including climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic recovery and agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting as soon as the pandemic subsides, Kang added.

In a statement, the White House said that Biden and Moon “agreed to closely coordinate on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” using the official name of North Korea.

Biden stressed his commitment to strengthening the US-South Korea alliance, which he called “the linchpin for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.”

“They also agreed on the need for the immediate restoration of democracy in Burma,” also known as Myanmar, where the military seized power in a coup on Monday, the statement said.

After the call, Moon tweeted that he had a “great conversation” with Biden.

“I welcomed ‘America’s return’ in the midst of mounting global challenges such as Covid-19, climate change and economic polarization,” he wrote. “We will always stand together as we work for peace on the Korean peninsula and tackle global challenges.”

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