June 16, 2024

Remarks by President Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea in Joint Press Conference

Remarks by President Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea in Joint Press Conference

 
Rose Garden

1:43 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Well, Mr. President, it’s good to see you again, my friend.

We’ve met several times over the last year.  And each time, we have deepened our nations’ partnership and for the benefit, I think, of both our peoples.  And today is no exception.

Our nations’ relationship is a — has a been a great success story.  The alliance formed in war and has flourished in peace.

Seemingly every day, we’ve launched new areas of cooperation on cyber, strategic technologies, space, democracy, and all the areas that matter most to our future.

Because of its core, our alliance is about building a better future for all of our people.  And there’s no better example than our economic relationship and partnership, which has — is delivering incredible benefits to both our nations.

Through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, we’re advancing economic growth grounded in high standards for our workers, for the environment, and for communities throughout the region.

We’re standing together against economic influence being leveraged in coercive ways.

And since I took office, Korean companies have invested more than $100 billion in the United States, driving innovation and spurring good new jobs for Americans and Korean workers.

Our mutual defense treaty is ironclad, and that includes our commitment to extended deterrence, and — and that includes the nuclear threat and — the nuclear deterrent.

They are particularly important in the face of the DPRK’s increased threats and the blatant violation of U.S. [U.N.] sanctions.

At the same time, we continue to seek serious and substantial diplomatic breakthroughs with the DPRK to bolster stability on the Peninsula, reduce the threat of proliferation, and address our humanitarian and human rights concerns for the people of the DPRK.

The Republic of Korea and the United States are working together, including through our trilateral cooperation with Japan, to ensure the future of the Indo-Pacific is free, is open, prosperous, and secure.

I want to thank you again, Mr. President, for your political courage and personal commitment to — to diplomacy with Japan.

I’ve worked on these issues for a long time, and I can tell you it makes an enormous difference when we all pull together.

I also welcome and support your administration’s new Indo-Pacific strategy.  It’s a strategy that affirms how aligned our two nations are and our visions of the region, and how similar they are.

Today, we discussed our work together on promoting peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and beyond.

(Clears throat.)  Excuse me.

I also affirmed our shared commitment — we, together, shared our affirmed shared commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine against Russia’s brutal assault on their freedom, their territorial integrity, and democracy.

And the Republic of Korea’s strong support for Ukraine is important, because Russians’ flagrant — Russia’s flagrant violation of international law matters to nations everywhere in the world, not just in Europe.

When I — when it comes right down to it, it’s about what you believe, what you stand for, what kind of future you want for your children and grandchildren.

And right now, I believe the world is at an inflection point.

The choices we make today, I believe, are going to determine the direction of our world and the future of our kids for decades to come.

That’s why this partnership is so important, Mr. President — because we share the same values, the same vision.

And I greatly appreciate, Mr. President, that the Republic of Korea co-chaired the second Summit on Democracies last month and that you will host the third Summit on — for Democracies.

We both understand that our democracies and our people are our greatest sources of strength.  And working together, they make our nations stronger and more effective.

From tracking the climate crisis and strengthening our effort to fight it, and strengthening global health, no two countries are better suited to meet the challenges ahead than the Republic of Korea and the United States.

I want to thank you again, Mr. President, for your friendship, your partnership, and all you’ve done to help build a future of shared strength and success.

The floor is yours, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT YOON:  (As interpreted.)  President Biden, thank you for your special and warm hospitality.  I am very pleased to be making a state visit to the United States during this meaningful year that marks the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance.

Our two countries have overcome challenges and crises during the past 70 years based on the deep roots of freedom and democracy, building a value alliance that is strong, resilient, and sustainable.

We are now being threatened by an unprecedented polycrisis.  The ROK-U.S. Alliance is jointly overcoming this crisis also coming from North Korea as a righteous alliance that contributes to world peace and prosperity.

We will further expand the depth and denotation of the ROK-U.S. global comprehensive strategic partnership and march forward to the future.

Today, President Biden and myself engaged in constructive dialogue to discuss ways to materialize this shared vision.  The outcome of our dialogue is well outlined in the joint statement adopted today.

The first key outcome is extended deterrence.  Sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula does not happen automatically.  Our two leaders have decided to significantly strengthen extended deterrence of our two countries against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats so that we can achieve peace through the superiority of overwhelming forces and not a false peace based on the goodwill of the other side.

Such a will and commitment is captured in the Washington Declaration.  President Biden has reaffirmed his ironclad commitment to extended deterrence towards the Republic of Korea. 

Our two countries have agreed to immediate bilateral presidential consultations in the event of North Korea’s nuclear attack and promised to respond swiftly, overwhelmingly, and decisively using the full force of the alliance including the United States’ nuclear weapons. 

Our two countries have agreed to establish a Nuclear Consultative Group to map out a specific plan to operate the new extended deterrence system. 

Now our two countries will share information on nuclear and strategic weapon operations plans in response to North Korea’s provocations and have regular consultations on ways to plan and execute joint operations that combine Korea’s state-of-the-art conventional forces with the U.S.’s nuclear capabilities, the results of which will be reported to the leaders of our two countries on a regular basis. 

In addition, our two countries have agreed to further advance tabletop exercises against a potential nuclear crisis.

In addition, deployment of the United States’ strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula will be made constantly and routinely. 

President Biden and I will continue to cooperate to strengthen extended deterrence between our two countries based on our historical and concrete agreement reached during our summit.

Second, our two leaders have agreed to further strengthen the strategic partnership in economic security, which is directly related to the national economies of our two countries. 

President Biden and I welcomed the expansion of our firms’ bilateral mutual investment and advanced technology including semiconductors, electric vehicles, and batteries.

President Biden has said that no special support and considerations will be spared for Korean companies’ investment and business activities in particular.

We have agreed to consult and coordinate closely so that the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act can further strengthen supply chain cooperations between the two countries in advanced technology. 

Furthermore, we plan on ramping up partnerships in cutting-edge technology.

We have agreed to establish a dialogue for next-generation emerging and core technology between the U.S. National Security Council and the Korea Office of National Security, pertaining to chips, batteries, biotechnology, quantum science, and other cutting-edge technologies, with the aim of promoting joint R&D and experts exchange.

We have also adopted a separate joint statement for strengthening cooperation in the rapidly emerging quantum science and technology domain. 

President Biden and I have also agreed to get the ball rolling on discussions about expanding our alliance into cyber and space by applying the Mutual Defense Treaty in cyberspace and space as well.

We have also agreed that the Strategic Cybersecurity Cooperation Framework adopted this time around will serve as the foundation on which we address cyber threats together and boost cooperation and information sharing, collection, and analysis. 

Space is another area that shows great promise for cooperation between our two countries.  During my time here, I was able to visit the NASA Goddard Space Center.  President Biden welcomed the establishment of KASA, and we have agreed to promote cooperation between KASA and NASA.

We have also agreed to accelerate discussions on reaching a reciprocal defense procurement agreement, which is equivalent to an FTA in terms of national defense. 

Meanwhile, President Biden and I have agreed to promote exchange between the future generations of our two countries.  To this end, we have launched the U.S.-ROK special exchange initiative for youths.

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance this year, our two countries plan to invest a total of $60 million to support exchanges between 2,023 youths majoring in STEM, humanities, and social sciences.  And this also includes the largest Fulbright program to date, which will provide scholarships for 200 students.

Last but not least, President Biden and I have agreed that South Korea and the United States, as key partners in achieving stability and building peace in the Indo-Pacific region, will put our heads together as we implement our Indo-Pacific strategies to strengthen our cooperation in addressing regional and global challenges.

In particular, President Biden expressed strong support for efforts made by the Korean government to normalize Korea-Japan relations, and we have agreed to continue our efforts in strengthening Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral cooperation.

Furthermore, we reaffirmed that the use of force to take the lives of innocent people — an example of which would be Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — can in no circumstances whatsoever be justified. 

In that sense, we agreed to continue our cooperation and efforts alongside the international community to support Ukraine.

During this meeting, we also discussed plans through which our two countries can take a leadership role in addressing global challenges, such as climate change, international development, and energy and food security.

I am delighted that through today’s meeting, we’ve opened up a new chapter for the next 70 years of the ROK-U.S. Alliance. 

I hope President Biden and I, with the support of people in our two countries, can fully deliver on the blueprint that we have mapped out today with the aim of our — founded in the reaffirmation of the value of freedom and our universal values. 

Thank you.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Thank you.

Now we’re going to take some questions.  The first question is from Courtney of the Los Angeles Times.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Your top economic priority has been to build up U.S. domestic manufacturing in competition with China.  But your rules again- — against expanding chip manufacturing in China is hurting South Korean companies that rely heavily on Beijing.  Are you damaging a key ally in the competition with China to help your domestic politics ahead of the election?

And one for President Yoon: There have been concerns since last year that North Korea will soon be conducting its seventh nuclear test amid growing domestic support in your country for your own nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile, Russia has suggested it could send its latest weapons to North Korea if South Korea sends lethal aid to Ukraine.  How do you seek to manage the North Korea risk amid obligations to Ukraine and NATO?

Thank you.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Let me respond to your question first.

My desire to increase U.S. manufacturing and jobs in America is not about China.  I’m not concerned about China. 

Remember, America invented the semiconductor.  We invented it.  We used to have 40 percent of the market.  And we decided that what we’re going to do over the past — I don’t know how many decades — we decided that it was going to be cheaper to export jobs and import product.  And along came the pandemic.  And the pandemic taught us that — we used to have, as I said, 40 percent of the market just some years ago.  Now it’s down to 10 percent.  And again, we invented the super- —

We got — so I decided to go out and see what we could do to increase our hold on the market once again.  And so what I did was I went around the country.  As well as in addition to passing the CHIPS and Science Act, I, in fact, visited countries around the world.  And two significant South Korean companies decided they were going to invest billions of dollars in chip manufacturing in the United States. 

It wasn’t designed to hurt China.  It was designed to — so we didn’t have to worry about whether or not we had access to semiconductors.  For example, during the pandemic, what happened was all of a sudden everybody started to learn the phrase “supply chain.”  A year ago, no one knew what the hell anybody was talking about when you said “supply chain.”  But now they all know.  And we lost access to these — these semiconductors and which new automobiles in the United States need 30,000 of them just to build a new automobile.  And we didn’t have them. 

So we started to invest here.  And what happened was, when we encouraged the investment through the CHIPS and Science Act — and now we have enormous investment in the United States — well over $200 tril- — billion in long-term investment in semiconductors.  And we’re rebuilding the economy of the United States with those semiconductors.  It’s not designed to hurt China. 

The only thing I did say, with regard to China: There are certain extremely sophisticated semiconductors that we have built that are useful for nuclear and/or other weapons systems.  Those we are not selling.  We’re not exporting them to China or anyone else. 

And so that’s the context in which this has all occurred.  In the meantime, we’re creating thousands of jobs and bringing back a sense of pride and dignity to so many towns in the country where, all of a sudden, over the last three decades, we found out that factory that hired — had 600 people shut down.  The soul of that community was lost. 

And so I made sure, when the semiconductors were coming back, that they were not just going to go to the coast, they’d be all over the country. 

And so we have a significant “field of dreams” in — outside of — in Ohio, outside of Columbus.  We’re in Texas.  We’re in Arizona.  Anyway — they’re all over the country. 

So, it’s not viewed to hurt anyone else.  We are providing access to those semiconductors.  We’re not — we’re a supply chain you can count on. 

But we are not — we are not going to sit back and be in a position where we don’t have access to those semiconductors.  We are not going to be a place where we’re the end of that line.  We — we’re the beginning of it.

And it’s generating significant economic growth in America and not hurting anybody. 

And, by the way, it’s creating jobs in — in South Korea.  It’s creating jobs in South Korea — and not just with SK, but — anyway — with Samsung and other — other industries. 

So, I think it’s a win-win. 

PRESIDENT YOON:  (As interpreted.)  With regard to your question, let me provide my answer.  Korea and the U.S., based on its Washington Declaration, our two countries have agreed to strengthen extended deterrence, and the implementation level is different from the past. 

First of all, we have an NCG — Nuclear Consultative Group — that has been launched that will implement discussions and actions.  And we will hold regular meetings and consultations under NCG.  We will share information on mutual nuclear assets and intelligence, and we will jointly plan responses and also jointly plan exercises and drills and implementation plans.  So, all of these will be strengthened and specified under the Nuclear Consultative Group. 

We want to customize our response against North Korea’s nuclear threat based on extended deterrence.  And in the process of achieving this goal, any concerns that Koreans may have against North Korean nuclear weapons will be relieved, I believe.

If nuclear weapons are used, our two countries will strengthen our response in a swift manner. 

Any further questions to me?  Please. 

Q    (As interpreted.)  Reporter Won Junghee from MBN.  I have two questions for you.  With regard to extended deterrence, the NCG that has been formed, how will Korea function under NCG?  Any kind of nuclear-equipped nuclear assets will be in function?

And to President Biden: Korea is to maintain the NPT and it is to strengthen extended deterrence, correct?  So, based on your view, do you think this is enough to guard Korea against the North Korean nuclear threat?

Thank you very much. 

PRESIDENT YOON:  (As interpreted.)  Well, let me address your question about the activities of the NCG.  We are going to be sharing information, and we are going to be acting jointly.  That is the key. 

I can’t talk to the specifics right now about what type of information and what type of specific activities we will be conducting. 

But, however, under the nuclear umbrella, our extended deterrence was a lot lower.  So, right now it’s an unprecedented expansion and strengthening of the extended deterrence strategy under the Washington Declaration, which will create the NCG.

The implementation and the response at this level has never thus far been this strong.  So, this is a new level of extended deterrence much stronger; that, I can say with confidence.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  The response that I would give you is that the extended deterrence means that we are having more consultation with whatever action is to be contemplated or taken.  And we made it really very, very clear. 

Any — the ROK has repeatedly formed its — confirmed its commitment to — to the nonproliferation treaty.  And the Washington Declaration is a prudent step to reinforce extended deterrence and respond to advancing DPRK nuclear threat.

Look, a nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partisans — partners — is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime, were it to take such an action. 

And it’s about strengthening deterrence in response to the DPRK’s escalatory behavior and to deal in complete consultation. 

And, you know, the idea that I have absolute authority as Commander-in-Chief and the sole authority to use a nuclear weapon.  But, you know, what the declaration means is that we’re going make every effort to consult with our allies when it’s appropriate if any actions are so called for.

Certainly, we’ve talked about this and some other things today.  But the bottom line here is: There’s even closer cooperation, closer consultation.  And — and we’re not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on — on the Peninsula, but we will have visits to — port visits of nuclear submarines and things like that.  We are not walking away from that.

My turn to ask a question?  I think the next question is Mary Bruce, ABC.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President. You recently launched your reelection campaign.  You’ve said questions about your age are “legitimate.”  And your response is always “Just watch me.”  But the country is watching, and recent polling shows that 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, believe you shouldn’t run again.  What do you say to them?  What do you say to those Americans who are watching and aren’t convinced?

You’ve said you can beat Trump again.  Do you think you’re the only one?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  I may not be the only one, but I know him well.  And I know the danger he presents to our democracy.  And we’ve been down this road before. 

And with regard to — to age, you know, and — and polling data, I noticed the polling data I keep hearing about is that I’m between 42 and 46 percent favorable rating, et cetera.  And — but everybody running for reelection in this time has been in the same position.  There’s nothing new about that.  You’re making it sound like “Biden is really underwater.”  And — number one.

Number two, when the same polling data asks whether they think what kind of job I’ve done, it gets overwhelmingly positive results — from 58 percent thinking everything from the CHIPS Act and the — all the things we’ve done.

You know, we’ve created — like I said, we’ve created 12 million new jobs.  We’ve created 800,000 manufacturing jobs.  We have economic growth moving. 

We’re in a situation where the climate — we’ve invested more money and more help in dealing with the climate crisis than any nation in the world.  And so, things — things are moving. 

And the reason I’m running again is there’s a job to finish. 

The other thing is that — look, you know, think about what I inherited when I got elected.  I inherited a nation in overwhelming debt at the time, number one — in the hole for the four years that he was President.

I inherited a nation that had a serious lo- — loss of credibility around the world as “America First” and —

You know, the first meeting I attended — the G7 — I said, “American is back.”  And one of the world leaders looked and said, “For how long?  For how long?” 

There was a great concern about the United States being able to lead the free world.  And we’re doing that again. 

And those same polls you look at — you take a look at the polls that are saying whether I pulled together NATO and the European Union, as well as the Asian partners.  I think we have.  But there’s more to do. 

And with regard to age, I can’t even say — if I guess how old I am, I can’t even say the number.  It doesn’t — it doesn’t register with me. 

And — but the only thing I can say is that one of the things that people are going to find out — they’re going to see a race, and they’re going to judge whether or not I have it or don’t have it.  I respect them taking a hard look at it.  I’d take a hard look at it as well.  I took a hard look at it before I decided to run.

And I feel good.  I feel excited about the prospects.  And I think we’re on the verge of really turning the corner in a way we haven’t in a long time. 

I know you’re tired of hearing me say we’re at an inflection point, but we really are.  What happens in the next two, three, four years is going to determine what the next three or four decades look like.  And I have never been more optimistic in my life about the possibilities of the United States. 

Q    To be clear, though, you just said, “I know him well.”  Did Donald Trump’s decision to run affect yours?  Would you be running if he wasn’t?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Yeah, I think I still would be running if he wasn’t.  I — I do know him well.  He’s not hard to know, as you know.  You know him well, too. 

And the question is whether or not — look, there’s just — there’s more to finish the job.  We have an opportunity to put ourselves in a position where we are economically and politically secure for a long time. 

Look, there — we continue to have — and I know you don’t like me — hearing me saying it.  There’s still a contest between autocracies and democracies, and we’re the leading democracy in the world.  And it’s something I know a fair amount about.  It’s something I care about and something that I have found a willingness of an awful lot of our allies and friends to follow.

So, I think that, you know, we have to finish the job and nail it down.

Q    (Inaudible.)

INTERPRETER:  You need to repeat the question; the mic was not used.  We cannot interpret.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  They need to repeat the question. 

Q    Mr. President, (inaudible).

INTERPRETER:  Please use the microphone.  We cannot provide interpretation if you do not use the microphone. 

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  You need the microphone. 

Q    My apologies.  Thank you. 

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  (Inaudible) stealing the microphone.

Q    Did the recent leaks revealing that the U.S. was spying on South Korea come up at all in your discussions?  And did President Biden provide you any assurances?

PRESIDENT YOON:  (As interpreted.)  With regard to that, we are communicating between our two countries, and we are sharing necessary information. 

I believe that investigation is underway in the United States, so various and complex variables are always in play.  We need time to wait for the investigation results by the United States.  And we plan to continue to communicate on the matter.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This will be the last question.

Q    (As interpreted.)  I’m from Financial News.  My name is Kim Hakjae.  My question goes to both of you.  My first one goes to President Yoon first. 

During the state visit, you’ve said that the alliance has strengthened to cutting-edge industries, to cutting-edge science.  And also investments in businesses have been some of the outcomes.  These are some positives.  However, to each individual of the public, how will this have a long-term impact?  What will be the direct benefits felt?

And to President Biden: In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, I know that the atmosphere is really positive.  However, Korean businesses, especially because of the CHIPS Act and the IRA, are on edge.

What message can you send to the Korean companies to really make sure and tell them that this is not something to worry about?

PRESIDENT YOON:  (As interpreted.)  The technology cooperation between the ROK and the U.S., and also in partnerships in cutting-edge industries, in science and technology, was your first question.  So, that is about really strengthening the competitiveness of our two countries.  And it will enhance the productivity and to create added value — high added value.  These are the types of products that are going to be produced. 

And from the perspective of the public, for each individual: In that process, they will reap the benefits wide and comprehensive that will stem from these industries and investments in these industries — for example, from job creation, as well. 

And above all, the future generations will be given the determination and will to take on new challenges and embrace opportunities in our industry so that they can continue to prosper and grow and become more abundant in the future.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  The reassurance is that it’s overwhelmingly in our interests for Korea to do well.  No, it is.  It’s very much in America’s interest that Korea do well in the Pacific — very well — because they are one of our most valued partners. 

And so I think the combination of growing democracies and the democratic institutions, as well as their economies, is overwhelmingly in the benefit of the United States, whether it is in South Korea or it’s in Australia, in the deep South Pacific. 

And so, I think that there’s a reason — overwhelming reason. 

Plus, in addition to that, we’re increasing the number of student exchanges, access to more information between our folks, educating our people, as well as we’re going to be cooperating on everything from space to technology to medicine.  And so, there’s so many opportunities we have. 

And I don’t think we — at least we don’t — and I don’t think, so far, most of the South Korean companies believe that there’s somehow a — a U.S. effort to slow them down, prevent their growth, or anything like that.  We’d like to see them grow.  And — and I mean that sincerely. 

It’s overwhelmingly in the U.S. interest for South Korea to do very well economically.  It’s overwhelmingly in our interest because it has —

And lastly, you know, I think we underestimate the example that South Korea sets.  Here you have a nation that is significant but is not a nation of 2-, 3-, 400,000 people, making the kind of changes it’s making. 

It gives other smaller nations hope to believe that if they have democratic institutions and commitment and in- — and impact on industries that in fact are the cutting-edge industries — new sciences and technology, including AI and other things — that there’s a future for them.  And I think that’s what this is about. 

And so we — we view South Korea’s economic growth as a benefit to the United States, as well as freedom around the world. 

Thank you all so very much.  Appreciate it.  (Applause.)

Q    (Inaudible) debt limit vote?  Are you going to (inaudible) McCarthy?

Q    Republicans say you’re refusing to negotiate on the debt limit.  They’re saying you’re missing in action.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  They haven’t figured out the debt limit yet.

Q    Are you missing in action?

Q    Will negotiate with them on the debt limit?

Q    Will you meet with McCarthy?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  I’m happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended.  That’s not negotiable. 

I notice they quote Reagan and they quote — they quote Reagan all the time and they quote Trump, both of which said — it says — I’m paraphrasing — it would be an absolute crime to not extend the debt limit.

2:19 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/04/26/remarks-by-president-biden-and-president-yoon-suk-yeol-of-the-republic-of-korea-in-joint-press-conference-2/