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Biden Pushes Economic, Security Aims   05/22 09:04

   President Joe Biden tended to both business and security interests Sunday as 
he wrapped up a three-day trip to South Korea, first showcasing Hyundai's 
pledge to invest at least $10 billion in the United States and later mingling 
with troops at a nearby military base.

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- President Joe Biden tended to both business and 
security interests Sunday as he wrapped up a three-day trip to South Korea, 
first showcasing Hyundai's pledge to invest at least $10 billion in the United 
States and later mingling with troops at a nearby military base.

   Biden's visit to Osan Air Base, where thousands of U.S. and South Korean 
service members monitor the rapidly evolving North Korean nuclear threat, was 
his final stop before he arrived in Tokyo later Sunday.

   "You are the front line, right here in this room," the president said in a 
command center with maps of the Korean Peninsula projected across screens on a 
wall.

   It was a day that brought together two key messages that Biden is trying to 
project during his first trip to Asia as president.

   At a time of high inflation and simmering dissatisfaction at home, Biden 
emphasized his global mission to strengthen the American economy by convincing 
foreign companies like Hyundai to launch new operations in the United States. 
And he wanted to demonstrate solidarity with nervous Asian allies who live in 
the shadow of North Korea's nuclear weapons and grew skeptical of U.S. security 
commitments while President Donald Trump was in office.

   Earlier Sunday, Biden brushed aside questions about any possible provocation 
by North Korea, such as testing a nuclear weapon or ballistic missile during 
his trip, saying, "We are prepared for anything North Korea does."

   Asked if he had a message for the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, Biden 
offered a clipped response: "Hello. Period."

   It was another sharp departure from Trump, who once said he "fell in love" 
with Kim.

   Biden's first appearance of the day was alongside Hyundai chairman Eusiun 
Chung to highlight the company's expanded investment in the United States, 
including $5.5 billion for an electric vehicle and battery factory in Georgia.

   "Electric vehicles are good for our climate goals, but they're also good for 
jobs," Biden said. "And they're good for business."

   Chung also said his company would spend another $5 billion on artificial 
intelligence for autonomous vehicles and other technologies.

   The major U.S. investment by a South Korean company was a reflection of how 
the countries are leveraging their longstanding military ties into a broader 
economic partnership.

   Earlier in his trip, Biden toured a computer chip plant run by Samsung, the 
Korean electronics giant that plans to build a $17 billion production facility 
in Texas.

   Biden has made greater economic cooperation with South Korea a priority, 
saying on Saturday that "it will bring our two countries even closer together, 
cooperating even more closely than we already do, and help strengthen our 
supply chains, secure them against shocks and give our economies a competitive 
edge."

   The pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February has forced a 
deeper rethinking of national security and economic alliances. Coronavirus 
outbreaks led to shortages of computer chips, autos and other goods that the 
Biden administration says can ultimately be fixed by having more manufacturing 
domestically and with trusted allies.

   Hyundai's Georgia factory is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up 
to 300,000 vehicles annually, with plans for construction to begin early next 
year and production to start in 2025 near the unincorporated town of Ellabell.

   But the Hyundai plant shows that there are also tradeoffs as Biden pursues 
his economic agenda.

   The president has tried to link the production of electric vehicles to 
automakers with unionized workforces, and during his trip he called on Korean 
companies to hire union labor for their U.S. operations.

   However, there has been no guarantee that the Hyundai Georgia plant's 
workers will be unionized.

   Georgia is a "right-to-work" state, meaning workers may not be required to 
join a union or make payments to a union as a condition of employment.

   A Hyundai spokesperson did not respond to an email asking if the Georgia 
plant would be unionized. A senior Biden administration official, who briefed 
reporters on the condition of anonymity, said there was no contradiction 
between Biden encouraging investors to embrace union workforces while his 
administration does "whatever it can" to encourage investment and bring jobs to 
the U.S.

   Biden passed on visiting the demilitarized zone on the North and South's 
border, a regular stop for U.S. presidents when visiting Seoul. Biden had 
visited the DMZ as vice president and was more interested in seeing Osan Air 
Base, said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

   While on base, Biden chatted with the troops and their families at the 
bowling alley and indulged his passion for ice cream -- twice over. First 
chocolate chip, then vanilla and chocolate.

   Biden and Korean President Yoon Sook Yeol on Saturday announced they will 
consider expanded joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat posed by 
North Korea.

   The push toward deterrence by Biden and Yoon, who is less than two weeks 
into his presidency, marks a shift by the leaders from their predecessors. 
Trump had considered scrapping the exercises and expressed affection for North 
Korea's Kim. And the last South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, remained 
committed to dialogue with Kim to the end of his term despite being repeatedly 
rebuffed by the North.

   Yoon campaigned on a promise to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea 
relationship. He reiterated at a dinner on Saturday in Biden's honor that it 
was his goal to move the relationship "beyond security" issues with North 
Korea, which have long dominated the relationship.

   "I will try and design a new future vision of our alliances with you, Mr. 
President," Yoon said.

   During the Japan leg of Biden's trip, he will meet with Prime Minister Fumio 
Kishida on Monday and lay out his vision for negotiating a new trade agreement, 
the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

   Soon after arriving in Tokyo on Sunday evening, Biden stopped by the U.S. 
chief of mission's residence to take part in a room dedication for Norman 
Mineta, the late U.S. transportation secretary.

   Mineta, a former Democratic congressman who served in the Cabinets of both 
George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, died earlier this month. He was the son of 
Japanese immigrants, and he and his family were among those held by the U.S. 
government in Japanese interment camps during World War II.

   A central theme for the trip is to tighten U.S. alliances in the Pacific to 
counter China's influence in the region.

   But within the administration, there's an ongoing debate about whether to 
lift some of the $360 billion in Trump-era tariffs on China. U.S. Treasury 
Secretary Janet Yellen recently said some of the tariffs are doing more harm to 
U.S. businesses and consumers than they are to China.

   On Tuesday, Japan hosts Biden at a summit for the Quad, a four-country 
strategic alliance that also includes Australia and India. The U.S. president 
will then return to Washington.

 
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