Biden opens first visit to South Korea and Japan: supply chain, "Indo-Pacific economic framework" are the key points
2022-05-20: [Article Link] Reporter: Angel
From 20 to 24 May, the President of the United States, Biden, opened a visit to South Korea and Japan, which was his first visit to Asia since he became President of the United States.
Focusing on the supply chain, upgrading cooperation with South Korea, announcing the launch of the United States “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”, and participating in the US-Japan-India-India Security Dialogue (Quad) summit was the priority agenda of Biden's trip.
In Korea, Biden will announce a technical alliance between Korea and the United States; in Japan, Biden will announce the launching of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, to which both Japan and Korea will join.
However, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is not a free trade agreement and does not involve tariff reductions, with a focus on supply chain transfers.
Strongness towards the DPRK, restoration of relations with Japan and enhanced cooperation with the United States are the diplomatic priorities of the new President of Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol. And Biden broke the US Presidential practice of visiting the country, choosing to visit Korea first and then go to Japan. This is the fastest Korean-American summit interview since the new president came to power.
According to the KLA, Biden will be making an official three-day visit to South Korea from 20 p.m. The first stop to be visited by Biden following his arrival in South Korea on Friday is the Samsung Electronic Semiconductor Plant in Hizawa, Beijing. According to the KLA, Biden’s visit to the top of the three-star electronic semiconductor plant is intended to emphasize enhanced supply chain cooperation with South Korea. Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol will also deliver a speech announcing the Korea-US technical alliance. In addition to containing high inflation, easing semiconductor shortages is another challenge for the US government. Recently, the White House has urged the House of Representatives and the Senate to agree on a semiconductor industry subsidy bill.
In addition to economic security, North Korea’s problems and regional cooperation will also be the focus of discussions between Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol during their visit to South Korea. According to South Korean and American media reports, the two heads of state will discuss the possibility of relaunching the “Extensive Deterrence Strategic Agreement.”
In 2017, in response to the threat posed by North Korea’s missiles, the United States and Korea announced an annual extended deterrence strategic agreement. Extended deterrence means that the United States will provide a nuclear umbrella in the event of nuclear threats or attacks against allied countries, using conventional weapons and missile defence systems to defend allied countries.
However, contrary to previous speculation, Biden would not visit the demilitarized zone along the Korean-Korean border during his visit to Korea.
In strengthening regional cooperation, Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to announce in his talks with Biden that Korea has joined the United States-led multilateral economic cooperation mechanism, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. At the end of the visit to Korea, Biden will visit Japan from 22 to 24 years.
The United States national security adviser, Sullivan, at a press conference prior to Biden's visit, stated that American-Japanese relations were at their peak and that Biden's visit would further enhance relations between the two countries.
According to the Common News Agency, Japanese officials have revealed that Japan’s Prime Minister, Mr. Kaida, will agree with Biden to strengthen cooperation in the production of Japanese-American semiconductors and to deepen cooperation in the area of economic security. Japan and the United States are also considering issuing a joint statement to strengthen cooperation in new defence areas, such as networks and space.
The United States may confirm that Japanese astronauts will participate in the United States-led “Artemis” Departure Plan to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the area of moon exploration.
During the visit to Japan, Biden's highlight was the official announcement of the launching of the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” and his participation in the Quad Summit.
One of Quad’s members, Australia, will hold federal parliamentary elections this Saturday, and the polls now show that Prime Minister Morrison’s Liberal-National Party ruling coalition lags behind the opposition Labour Party. The new Prime Minister who won the election will participate in the Quad summit.
The United States Government presented the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” last year, which has not yet been published, but which mainly covers four areas: fair trade, divided into seven sub-themes: labour, environmental climate, digital economy, agriculture, transparency, etc.; supply chain resilience, building a safe and resilient supply chain to respond quickly to emergencies; infrastructure, clean energy and decarbonization; and taxation and anti-corruption. Japanese officials revealed that, in addition to the Republic of Korea and Japan, Australia, New Zealand, ASEAN member countries Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore were also expected to join the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”.
During Obama, the United States pursued the Asia-Pacific Rebalancing Strategy and joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Trump took the United States out of the TPP when it came to power. The TPP has now been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), and the United States has not returned.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), launched by ASEAN, the largest free trade zone in the world, entered into force in January this year without the participation of the United States.
United States researchers have previously pointed out that bringing the United States into a free trade agreement is politically unfeasible for Biden because of the high trade protectionism of the Trump era, which continues to be widely marketed among United States voters today.
The “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” launched by the United States on this occasion is not a free trade agreement and does not involve tariff relief, nor is it possible for other countries to agree to sell more commodities to the United States.
India, Viet Nam, and Indonesia have expressed reservations about the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. When Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Fan Mingjing joined the United States think tank last week, he said that the specific content of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework was unclear and that Viet Nam needed to negotiate with the United States on the details.
Jayant Menon, a senior researcher at the Southeast Asian Institute of Singapore, stated in an interview with the Japanese Economic Network that the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” requires signatory countries to comply with strict standards on issues such as trade, the environment, labour, etc., but that countries are unable to receive returns from compliance with high standards, such as easier access to the United States market. Menon considered this to be one of the main reasons for the reservations of ASEAN developing countries to the Framework.
Before Biden's visit to Korea, the Chinese State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, hosted a video-conference with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the BRICS countries on 19th.
Wang Yi said that “small circles” could not solve the “big challenges” facing the world and that “small groups” could not adapt to the “big changes” of today's world. We should firmly uphold the international system, with the United Nations at its core, and the international order, based on international law, and ensure that international events are shared by all, that international rules are set by all and that development gains are shared by all. Earlier, on 16 and 18, Wang Yi had a video meeting with the new Foreign Minister of South Korea, Park Jin, and Foreign Minister of Japan, Lin Fang, respectively. In his meeting with Park, Wang Yi said that it was 30 years ago that China and Korea emerged from the cold war trap and opened a new chapter of cooperation. In a meeting with Lin Fang, Wang Yi pointed out that Japan was about to host the US-Japan Quadrilateral Summit. It was a matter of concern and alarm that US leaders had yet to travel, and that the so-called US-Japan alliance against China had become a blunder. Japan and the United States are allies, while China and Japan have concluded treaties of peace and friendship. Bilateral cooperation between Japan and the United States should not provoke confrontations, let alone undermine China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests. In response to Biden's trip to Asia, China's spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, responded at a press conference on 19 September that any regional cooperation framework should be adapted to the times of peace and development and promote mutual trust and cooperation among the countries of the region.