Vice President Kamala Harris gave South Korean President Moon Jae-in a bird’s eye view of the White House on Friday, ahead of his formal meeting with President Joe Biden.
Harris took Moon out onto the balcony outside her ceremonial office of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where she showed him the White House complex across the drive.
‘We are connected through our shared democratic and economic values, as well as through friendships, family, culture and history. In fact the largest Korean diaspora outside of the —outside of Asia, I think outside of Korea, actually — is where I live, in Los Angeles, California. And across our nation, Korean Americans are leaders in medicine, academics, entertainment, business and politics,’ Harris, a former senator from California, said.
Moon will meet with Biden later Friday where he will bring up ballistic missile use in amid the on-going threat from North Korea.
A senior South Korean official accompanying Moon on his U.S. trip told reporters that Seoul’s diplomatic and security officials have had the ‘will and idea of resolving the issue of abolishing the missile guideline’ before the end of Moon’s term, South Korean media reported.
South Korea is prohibited from firing ballistic missiles with the range of over 800 kilometers under a 1979 accord.
‘The U.S.-South Korea missile guideline is now 42 years old. Back then, we decided to adopt missiles under U.S. control to obtain missile technology, but that has instead served as shackles,’ the official explained.
Moon also hopes the talk will lead to renewed diplomatic urgency by the U.S. on curbing North Korea’s nuclear program. The White House, however, is signaling that it is taking a longer view on one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges Biden faces.
Moon is the second world, and Asian, leader welcomed by President Biden at the White House, a sign of the importance Washington attaches to the region as it seeks to counter China’s influence.
Vice President Kamala Harris shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in the balcony outside her ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Harris’ ceremonial office is across the street from the White House, she showed Moon the complex after her meeting with him
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will bring up ballistic missile use in his meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House Friday
Vice President Kamala Harris meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the ceremonial office in Eisenhower Executive Office Building ahead of his meeting with President Joe Biden
The South Korean leader is under pressure at home over his COVID-19 response and he will be hoping to secure an agreement with Washington for stop-gap supplies of vaccines, while the Biden administration is looking for enhanced climate commitments from Seoul.
Moon received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Seoul on March 23 and the second shot on April 30.
The two leaders are expected to have talks and then hold a joint news conference. Moon will also attend the awarding of the Medal of Honor, the US’s highest honor, Army Colonel Ralph Puckett.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, White House officials said North Korea will be a central focus of talks. Coordination on vaccine distribution, climate change and regional security concerns spurred by China are also high on the president´s list.
The White House announced last month that it had completed a review of North Korea policy and that Biden would veer from the strategies of his two most recent predecessors, rejecting both Donald Trump´s deeply personal effort to win over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Barack Obama´s more hands-off approach.
But the administration has yet to detail what its third-way effort to try to prod the North to abandon its nuclear program will look like.
Moon, who will leave office next May, is eager to resume stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang and between Seoul and Pyongyang. But the Biden administration – which confirmed in March that it had made outreach efforts to the North without success – has been less enthusiastic about the idea of direct negotiations in the near term.
Asked at Thursday´s White House briefing whether Biden was open to holding direct talks with Kim, as Trump did twice, press secretary Jen Psaki demurred.
‘I don´t expect that to be top on his agenda,’ she said of Biden.
Still, Moon has made clear he plans to nudge Biden to renew diplomatic efforts with the North.
‘I will not be pressed by time or become impatient during the remainder of my term. However, if there is an opportunity to restart the clock of peace and advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything I can,’ Moon told reporters earlier this month. ‘I look forward to North Korea responding positively.’
A senior administration official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and briefed reporters on Moon´s visit on the condition of anonymity, sidestepped questions about whether the administration was willing to offer North Korea sanctions relief to begin dismantling its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.
The official said the U.S. was hoping to chart a ‘flexible’ way forward, well aware of where past efforts went awry.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is seen during a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery
South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a press conference with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill Thursday
In addition to talks about North Korea, Biden is expected to use the meeting to press South Korea to adopt a more ambitious 2030 target for curbing carbon emissions and to urge Seoul to play a greater role in countering China´s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Moon, meanwhile, is expected to seek Biden´s assistance with helping South Korea boost its coronavirus vaccine supply. South Korea has vaccinated only about 5% of its population.
Biden is expected to lobby Moon to take a strong stance on China’s activity toward Taiwan and other provocative moves Beijing has made in the region. Biden has sought to rally Pacific allies to coordinate on China, which Biden sees as the United States’ fiercest economic competitor.
Biden, in the early going of his presidency, has spoken out about concerns with Beijing’s trade policies and human rights record and has also highlighted regional allies’ concerns about an increasingly assertive Chinese military.
Biden has taken note of Japan’s concerns that China’s growing military activity and broad territorial claims present a security threat. Japan is locked in a dispute with China over Beijing´s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea. He’s also looked to strengthen relations with India, which has been tested by a military standoff with China along their disputed border in eastern Ladakh.
But South Korea could be more reluctant to speak out about China, an important trading partner that it also sees as playing a key role in dealing with the Kim regime.
Michael Green, who served as senior director for Asia on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said South Korea’s situation is difficult.
‘This South Korean policy of strategic ambiguity is proving increasingly awkward and almost untenable for Seoul because other middle powers that are not the U.S. or Japan … are adjusting their China policies,’ said Green, who is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Biden has also invited Moon to attend a White House Medal of Honor ceremony to honor retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. for heroic actions during the Korean War. Puckett, 94, will be cited for holding on to a strategic position near Unsan over two days in November 1950 while fighting off numerous attacks in which he suffered multiple wounds.
Moon on Thursday visited Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington and laid a wreath at a memorial to Americans killed during the Korean War. He also made a visit to the U.S. Capitol to meet with the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
HERO VETERAN WHO RAN INTO ENEMY FIRE AND TOLD HIS MEN TO LEAVE HIM BEHIND
Col. Ralph Puckett Jr risked his life for his platoon during the Korean War when he held a strategic position while under heavy mortar and machine gun fire for two days.
The 94-year-old Medal of Honor recipient was 24 and an Army Ranger in November 1950 when his unit started coming under heavy fire during an attack in broad daylight in Unsan.
The recent graduate of the U.S. Military Academy had very limited training and no combat experience, but was tasked to lead a provisional unit.
In the days leading up to the operation his men were pursuing North Korean forces as they retreated toward the Yalu River and the border with China.
On little sleep, in freezing temperatures and with several casualties in his unit, on the morning of November 25 he was tasked with securing and defending a critical position. That was when he was hit with heavy artillery.
He ran onto an open hillside, known as Hill 205, three times to try and draw Chinese enemy fire away from the Eighth Army Ranger company and help them identify where the shooting was coming from.
On the same day, he showed his leadership again during a four-hour firefight.
He was injured first by grenade fragments and then was more seriously hurt when an enemy mortar landed beside him in his foxhole.
With his mobility seriously impacted, he asked the men in his unit to leave him behind for their own safety.
But they disobeyed orders, dragged him from the battlefield and took him to a position where he still managed to direct his platoon to counter the Chinese onslaught.
Of the Rangers on the mission, 10 were either killed or missing with another 31 wounded. Puckett was initially awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions and devotion to duty that day.
Puckett then spent a year in Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
He received a second Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Vietnam War and later retired from the Army in 1971.
In 1992 was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
He now lives in Georgia.
Source: US Army