Biden and South Korean President Yoon to Meet Amid Rising Tensions with North Korea and China

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US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Seok-youl are set to meet on Wednesday, April 27, to discuss a range of issues, including the possibility of the US returning nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula. While some in South Korea have called for the return of US nuclear weapons due to North Korea’s repeated violations of a joint declaration, one Biden administration official has made it clear that there are no plans to do so. Instead, the US is likely to increase the regular deployment of assets such as bombers or aircraft carriers to the region.

The meeting between Biden and Yoon comes as North Korea has been steadily expanding its nuclear arsenal, including testing a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time. This has raised concerns about the North’s efforts to acquire a more powerful, harder-to-detect weapon capable of targeting the continental US.

In addition to discussing nuclear deterrence, Biden and Yoon are expected to discuss China’s military and economic assertiveness in the region, as well as Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. The Biden administration has praised South Korea for sending humanitarian aid to Kyiv, and would welcome Seoul taking an even bigger role in helping the Ukrainians repel Russia.

The meeting between the two leaders also comes just weeks after the leaks of highly classified documents that have complicated relations with allies, including South Korea. The documents revealed that South Korea’s National Security Council “grappled” with the US in early March over an American request to provide artillery ammunition to Ukraine. Biden is expected to discuss with Yoon “what it means for all like-minded allies to continue to support Ukraine” and ask the South Korean leader “what the future of their support might look like.”

Biden and Yoon will hold a joint news conference after their talks on Wednesday, and the US president and first lady Jill Biden will honor Yoon and his wife for a state dinner at the White House in the evening. Biden has been looking to expand US alliances in Asia, and has recently given attention to Yoon, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

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