May 21, 2021
Joe Biden Press Conference with President of South Korea Moon Jae-in Transcript
President Joe Biden held a press conference with Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, on May 21, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
Hello everyone, please be seated. Today I’ve been honored to welcome to the White House President Moon, and I got an opportunity to spend some private time with him as well as with our delegations. He’s only the second person, head of state, second head of state to visit the White House since I’ve been president, and it’s been a real joy. It’s a reflection of how much we value the 70 year alliance with the Republic of Korea, and how essential we know the relations is to the United States, the future of the Indo-Pacific region, and quite frankly to the world. Today has been particularly special, because this afternoon in addition to our bilateral meetings, President Moon participated in a ceremony right in this room awarding the Medal of Honor to a veteran of the Korean War, a true American hero, Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. I want to thank you again Mr.President for joining us, it was special. I don’t know that there’s ever been an award of the Medal of Honor with the head of state of the country where the award was won. It meant a great deal to me and to the family and to our country.
Joe Biden: (01:24)
But today has not only been an affirmation of our shared history of sacrifice that binds the Republic of Korea and north, excuse me, and the United States together. It’s a commitment to expanding cooperation and shaping our shared future, in accordance with our democratic values that have made our nations strong and agile and highly competitive in the 21st century’s economies. The Republic of Korea and the United States are both nations built on innovation, and we must both meet the challenges facing us today and look to what is possible for tomorrow. Our partnership is grounded on our ironclad commitment to shared security. Our alliance has long been the linchpin of peace, security, prosperity and the region growing more prominent and us being together. I was grateful that our two nations were able to quickly conclude a new cost sharing agreement for forces in Korea in March, which will benefit both our peoples, and I thank again the president for that agreement.
Joe Biden: (02:35)
Today, we made important progress on a range of issues. We spoke about the shared approach to the Democratic People’s Republic in Korea and a continuing thread of the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs. My team consulted closely with President Moon’s team throughout the process of our DPRK review, and we both are deeply concerned about the situation. Our two nations also share a willingness to engage diplomatically with the DPRK to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions, as we move toward our ultimate goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Today, I affirmed to President Moon that the United States will proceed in close consultation with the Republic of Korea in our strategy and our approach. To help drive all of these efforts I’m pleased to announce that Ambassador Sung Kim, our Korea diplomat, and with deep policy expertise will serve as the US special envoy for the DPRK. Ambassador Kim you’re here somewhere today stand up will you. Thank you for being able to do this. Thank you for taking on this important role, we appreciate it very much.
Joe Biden: (03:58)
The USROK partnership also extends beyond the goals of the Peninsula. We address issues of regional and global concern, through stronger cooperation with partners in the region, including the [inaudible 00:04:11], the Quad, and trilateral cooperation with Japan. The multilateral cooperation is particularly important to coordinate and approach the situation that exists in Burma, as we work to pressure the junta to restore democracy for the people of Burma, and to address issues critical to regional stability, such as maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and preserving peace and stability across the Taiwan straits. Today, we also discussed ways that the Republic of Korea and the United States will work together to address the challenges of our time, beginning with our efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic globally. We agreed to establish a comprehensive vaccine partnership, to expand the manufacturer of vaccines that have been approved safe and effective, so we can scale up global vaccine supplies. We’ll strengthen our ability to fight the pandemic and respond to future biological threats.
Joe Biden: (05:15)
When it comes to fighting climate change, the Republic of Korea and the United States are committed to making ambitious 2030 targets aligned with the effort to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. We’re going to work together both to mobilize climate finance for developing countries, and to make sure that international financing is aligned to promote our climate goals. We also talked about how to harness our nation’s technological advantages, to ensure the Republic of Korea and the United States are cooperating to shape emerging technologies around our shared value system. This includes everything from strengthening our cyber security, to deepening our cooperation to build out an open secure G5 network, or 5G network I should say. I’m talking about the G5 it’s another organization. I’m thinking organization Mr. President. To secure the 5G networks.
Joe Biden: (06:18)
I’m particularly gratified that so many leading South Korean companies see the benefits of investing in the United States, including this morning’s announcement of more than $25 billion in new investments from Samsung, Hyundai, SK and LG. I understand the executives of those companies are here, would you please stand up? Thank you, thank you, thank you and I think we’ll do great work together. These new investments are going to create thousands of good paying jobs and jobs of the future right here in the United States. They’re going to help fortify and secure the supply chains for things like semiconductors and electric batteries. I know as I said that the CEOs made the effort not only to do this, but to be here today, and again I thank them for being here. I thank you for making the investments in our future and yours.
Joe Biden: (07:16)
Finally, I want to note that yesterday I had the honor of signing to law The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, to help Americans of Asian descent from having to live in fear just walking down the streets in the United States. Quite frankly I’ve been ashamed, ashamed of the way some Americans have responded. There’s a long history in this country of contributions of Asian Americans being overlooked, forgotten and ignored. I affirmed to President Moon today what I said yesterday, that we’re committing and we’re going to stay committed to stopping the hatred based on this bias, I promise you.
Joe Biden: (07:57)
Our people share a long history. Our soldiers have fought alongside one another. Our scientists work side by side, in both our countries. Our students study together, share ideas and see new opportunities for future collaboration. Our people to people and cultural connections are only growing, and K-pop fans are universal. Now I can tell those who laughed know what I’m talking about. Well, anyway I’ll get back to that later. A Korean actress took home an Oscar for supporting actress this year, following up on the four Oscar wins for the movie Parasite last year. Our two countries, our two nations have the tools and the deep connections that we need to make even stronger alliances or stronger cooperation. I want to thank you again for the meetings today Mr. President, particularly our long private meeting, and I appreciated that a great deal. I’m looking forward to working closely with you-
Joe Biden: (09:03)
I appreciate it, that a great deal. And I’m looking forward to working closely with you and your team as we expand and strengthen our efforts to shape the future together and I mean that literally, to shape the future together. So thank you. Mr. President.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (09:16)
Honorable President Biden, Madam vice president, I extend my deepest gratitude to you for your special hospitality and welcome. Today, leaders and delegates of Korea and the United States met each other’s eye and had a dialogue. For the peoples of our two nations, this will give them hope for recovery from COVID-19 as well as a meaningful gift for celebrating the 139th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. President Biden and I had an awarding wording ceremony for the medal of honor to the Korean war veteran one-on-one meeting, as well as an expended summit. For many hours together, we’ve had a very frank dialogue like old friends as regards to the promotion of democracy, inclusive growth, the strengthening of the middle-class, climate change response, as well as many other areas. Two of us were able to see for ourselves that we had common interests and commitments. In particular, we reaffirmed the strength of the ROC-US Alliance and confirmed the common vision for developing it into an even stronger one.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (10:26)
During my visit this time, the trust that has been built up between President Biden and I will foster a deeper friendship between our two peoples and lay a firm foundation that will undergird the sustainable development of the ROC-US Alliance, and I say this with confidence. The most urgent common tests that our two countries must undertake is achieving complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. Recently, the Biden administration concluded its DPRK policy review building on past agreements, including the Singapore joint statement while taking a calibrated and practical approach to seeking diplomacy with North Korea is indeed a welcome direction of the Biden administration’s North Korea policy. During the course of the review, our two countries closely coordinated with each other in lock-step, which I note with much appreciation. Moreover, I welcome President Biden’s appointment of ambassador Sung Kim as special representative for North Korea policy.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (11:29)
This reflects the firm commitment of the US for exploring diplomacy and its readiness for dialogue with North Korea. I have high expectations all the more as such a man of high caliber with expertise in the Korean peninsula issues has been appointed. President Biden and I discussed the dialogues based on commitments made between the two Koreas and between the US and North Korea are essential for making a peaceful Korean peninsula. This is the belief that we were able to reaffirm. Moreover, President Biden also expressed his support for the inter Korean dialogue and cooperation. On their close cooperation with the US, we’ll work to facilitate progress in inter Korean relations so as to achieve a virtuous cycle with USD-PRK dialogue. Moving forward as well, Korea and the United States will continue close communication while exploring our North Korea approach through dialogue and diplomacy. On that, I expect a positive response from North Korea. When strong security is firmly in place, we can preserve and make peace. Two of us agreed to further reinforce our combined defense posture and reaffirmed our commitment to a conditioned space transition, a war time operation of control. It is also with pleasure that I delivered the news on the termination of the revised missile guidelines. The signing of ROC-US special measures agreement on burden sharing in the early days of the Biden administration displays for the world, the robustness of our alliance as a symbolic and practical measure.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (13:03)
Today at the summit, President Biden and I decided to expand our cooperation in new emerging areas that are relevant for the changing times and landscape. First, to surmount COVID-19, our most urgent task were pledged to pull our strength together. America’s advanced technologies and Korea’s production capabilities will be married to establish a comprehensive chorus global vaccine partnership collaboration between our two countries will boost global vaccine supply and contribute to accelerating a complete ending of COVID-19. Through the global health security agenda which aims to enhance infectious disease and response capability, multilateral cooperation will be pursued as well. Under this broad framework of vaccine cooperation illustrating the robust ROC-US Alliance, an important announcement was made. President Biden pledged to supply vaccines to Korean servicemen. I thank you, Mr. President. This announcement of the US, I believe extends the ROC-US Alliance to the field of health in a meaningful measure.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (14:14)
Second, from semiconductors, EV batteries, pharmaceuticals to other cutting edge manufacturing technology sectors in an effort to build secure supply chains, we committed to work in close concert. Digital transformation is accelerating and the areas of cutting edge emerging technologies are gaining greater importance. Korea and the US in response to a post COVID 19 era plan to strengthen our cooperation in civil space exploration, 6G, and green energy to secure our global competitiveness. Furthermore, to join the advancing into overseas nuclear power plant markets, we decided to bolster our partnership. Third, in a bit to address climate change, we will further solidify coordination between our two countries. Our two nations are already spearheaded in global cooperation in climate change response. Last April, the US hosted their leader summit on climate successfully.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (15:11)
Korea for its part in next week is hosting P4G Seoul Summit once again, trying to build the international community’s collective will for climate change response. President Biden will participate in the P4G Seoul Summit next week virtually. I welcome his participation, which will certainly help us catalyze the international community to come together. President Biden and I participated in the ceremony for awarding a medal of honor to a Korean war veteran, Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr. Based on the ROC-US Alliance rooted in the noble sacrifices of our heroes, our two nations will usher in a new future together without a doubt. Today’s meetings between President Biden and myself and between the US and Korea will mark another milestone for bilateral cooperation towards a new era. President Biden has extended such warm hospitality and I express my deepest gratitude once again. I look forward to our frequent communication and continued close court consultation. Last but not least, yesterday, Israel and Hamas agreed on a ceasefire, which is indeed a relief. I appreciate President Biden’s hard work and leadership in this regard. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (16:36)
Thank you. Well, first question on toll is Mary Alice Parker for ABC.
Mary Alice Parker: (16:47)
Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate it. What is your message to Democrats who want you to be more confrontational with Israel and specifically to those that are saying that there should be an end to arm sales? I mean, do you recognize that there’s been a shift, an evolution in your party, Mr. President in the last 20 years on this issue? And I have a question for President Moon, but I can wait.
Joe Biden: (17:13)
There is no shift in my commitment, the commitment to the security of Israel period. No shift, not at all, but I tell you what there is a shift in. The shift is that we still need a two state solution. It is the only answer, the only answer. And what I’m convinced of is that we can now move as I [inaudible 00:17:39] before I was able to negotiate… excuse me, before the ceasefire was negotiated, that I made it clear that I spoke with President Abbas. We’re going to make sure that we are going to provide for security in the west bank and we renewed the security commitment as well as economic commitment to the people on the west bank. I also indicated-
Joe Biden: (18:03)
Economic commitment to the people on the West Bank. I also indicated to the Israelis that I thought it was very important that they stop in Jerusalem this inter-communal fighting that is by extremes on both sides. It has to end. It has to end. I’m prepared to put together and I’m going to attempt to put together a major package with other nations who share our view to rebuild the homes and without re-engaging, without providing Hamas the opportunity to rebuild their weapons systems, rebuild the Gaza, rebuild Gaza. They need the help. I’m committed to get that done. I don’t, and I think that my party still supports Israel. Let’s get something straight here. Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.
Speaker 4: (19:08)
Could I ask a question to President Moon? I’m curious if the two of you have offered any assurances behind the scenes to Taiwan, and if President Biden has pushed you to take a tougher stance when it comes to China’s posture towards Taiwan.
Joe Biden: (19:32)
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (19:41)
Well, fortunately there wasn’t such pressure, but as for peace and stability in Taiwan Straight, we agreed how important that region is, especially considering the special characteristics between China and Taiwan. We decided to work more closely on this matter going forward. We have a question from a Korean journalist over here. Yes, two from the left.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I’m Kang from Yonhap News. I have a question to both of the presidents here. As was mentioned by the former journalist, I understand that the Israel and Palestine issues is very important, but North Korea’s nuclear issues is equally important. On your to-do list, what’s the number that’s given to the North Korean nuclear issue on your priority list, Mr. President Biden, and also to President Moon, in terms of your roadmap for resolving the nuclear issue in North Korea, I want to understand whether your time schedule actually matches and is equal to one another in terms of resolving the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (21:18)
To begin, under the new Biden administration, the DPRK policy review has been completed in a rather fast period of time. That means that the Biden administration puts a priority on its North Korea policy among its diplomatic tasks. Also, in terms of reviewing its the DPRK policy, there was a very close coordination, as well as consultations between the United States and the Republic of Korea. The principle of the negotiations towards North Korea has already been announced by the US government, a very calibrated, practical, gradual, step-by-step manner, and very flexible. That is the approach that the current administration is aiming to adopt. That is the common understanding that we have with the United States and that we’re going to continue to work forward on this. In terms of the timeline for the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, there aren’t any differences in terms of how we think about this, no differences in terms of our opinions.
Joe Biden: (22:33)
I agree with what the president just said. Our goal is and remains complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. I want to make practical progress and increase security in the United States, for the United States and our allies. We closely studied what others have tried and what worked and what hasn’t worked. We’re under no illusions how difficult this is. None whatsoever. The past four administrations have not achieved the objective. It’s an incredibly difficult objective. As we move forward, we’re going to stay in very close coordination with our friends and our partners in the region, including President Moon. We fully recognize that this is about our collective security in the Indo-Pacific region. Total denuclearization is our objective and remain so. Well, I get the next question, huh? I’d like to ask the press the question if I may. Nancy Cordes, CBS.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I have one question about North Korea, and one question about Israel.
Joe Biden: (23:54)
We’ve changed this one question thing, haven’t we?
Two foreign policy questions. You have said in the past that you would not meet with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea without certain preconditions.
Joe Biden: (24:05)
What are those preconditions? Do you believe he would ever be able to meet them?
Joe Biden: (24:12)
Well, what I never do is I never make a judgment what a man or woman is going to do or not do based on what they said. We’ll see. If he made any commitment, I would meet with him if there was a commitment on which we met. The commitment has to be that there’s discussion about his nuclear arsenal. If it’s merely a means by which, how do we deescalate what they’re doing? If that was the case, I would not meet unless there was some outline made, my secretary of state and others would have negotiated as to how we would proceed.
Joe Biden: (24:50)
What I would not do is I would not do what had been done in the recent past. I would not give him all that he’s looking for as international recognition as legitimate and give them what, allowed him to move in a direction of appearing to be more, how can I say it? More serious about what he wasn’t at all serious about. I’d have to know specifics. The idea of never meeting with North Korea, I would make sure that my team had met with their counterparts and I know exactly what we’re meeting on.
Then, in the wake of all of your conversations this week, what is your relationship like now with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Do you have certain expectations that he will bolster the rights of the Palestinian people in some way? If so, did you convey that to him in your conversations?
Joe Biden: (25:48)
One of the reasons why we were able to get the ceasefire in 11 days is because we didn’t do what other people have done. I don’t talk about what I tell people in private. I don’t talk about what we negotiate in private. What I can assure you though, is that the last time it took 56 days and then six months to get a ceasefire. I’m praying the ceasefire will hold. I take Bibi Netanyahu when he gives me his word, I take him at his word. He’s never broken his word to me. What I’ve made clear is that it’s essential. It’s essential that the Palestinians on the West Bank be secured, that Abbas be recognized as the leader of the Palestinian people, which he is. Hamas is a terrorist organization, we recognize it that, but that doesn’t mean we should not be in Gaza, rebuilding Gaza for all those innocent people who in fact have been hurt and had been collateral damage, including the loss of homes and a whole range of other things, as well as insisting that Israeli citizens, whether they be Arab or Jew, are treated equally, Israeli citizens.
Joe Biden: (27:02)
… Equally as Israeli citizens. And that’s what was going on in Jerusalem. And so, that has to come to an end. And the prime minister knows my views, but the commitment that was given was immediately kept. From the very beginning, I told him what our objective was, that there needed to be a ceasefire. And he, in fact, kept his commitment in a timeframe in which he said he would do it.
Speaker 5: (27:31)
Absolutely. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (27:36)
Thank you. And by the way, I wasn’t the only one that spoke to him. I looked down here. Every major player on my team, from Secretary of Defense, to Secretary of State, all the way down the line, and our National Security Advisory, constant contact with their counterparts in Israel, in Egypt, and throughout the Middle East. This was not something that was just done with a casual conversation between myself and Bibi. I have, presumptions for me to say this, Mister President, but I think I’ve got a great team. And I spent a lot of time with Al Sisi on the phone in Egypt. And they’ve done a commendable job of bringing Hamas to the table and getting them to agree to a ceasefire as well. Thank you. Is that it?
Speaker 6: (28:21)
There is one more question.
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (28:32)
Yes. A lady? Our ladies do not raise their hands? Do we not have female journalists from Korea?
Lee Ji-yoon: (29:02)
Good afternoon from Korea Herald. And my name is Lee Ji-yoon. The Korean people are very curious about vaccines, and they’re waiting for the good news regarding vaccine. I understand that you’ve had a lot of discussions with President Biden regarding vaccine. And I wonder whether you have any good news to deliver to the people of Korea. And has there been any meaningful achievement that you want to go into the details of?
Moon Jae-in (Translator) : (29:32)
Yes. Regarding vaccine cooperation, you can read the joint statement and also the remarks that were issued as press release today. But to emphasize it once again, between the U.S. and Korea for vaccine cooperation, there will be a comprehensive partnership to be established between our two nations. And there has been an agreement between our two sides on that. The U.S. has the ability to develop vaccines and Korean companies that have the capacity to a produce biomedicine. And we are going to combine those capabilities so that we can boost the vaccine supply so that we can accelerate the rollout of vaccines to the entire world, especially in the Indo-Pacific region for supplying vaccines to that region. I believe that we’ll be able to make a contribution in that regard. And, in that process, Korea, in my opinion, will get some help in stabilizing our vaccine supply. And, at the same time, for the sake of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, President Biden decided to provide vaccines to the servicemen in Korea. As soon as the USA is ready, I understand there will be an announcement to be made by the U.S. side.
Joe Biden: (31:03)
Yes, prematurely make that. We’re going to. There are 550,000 Korean soldiers, sailors, airmen, who work in close contact with American forces in Korea. We’ll provide full vaccinations for all 550,000 of those Korean forces engaging with American forces on a regular basis, both for their sake, as well as the sake of the American forces.
Joe Biden: (31:31)
In addition to that, we’ve talked about the ability to have vaccines produced working with, and this is in the offing, working with one of the major vaccine producers in the United States and where Korea is incredibly sophisticated. And with the help of that particular company will be able to make significant numbers of vaccines for themselves.
Joe Biden: (32:00)
And lastly, it is my hope and expectation, I can not commit to it because we don’t know for certain, but we think that over the remainder of 2021 we’re going to be able to vaccinate every American. We have enough vaccine to vaccinate every American, period, right now. And we’re going to be able to do that by the mid summer. And we’re going to continue to get more people to engage in seeking the vaccine. I don’t believe or never have believed that there’s a large percentage of Americans who will not take the vaccine. And we’re doing very imaginative things, and the states are, to get people to show up and have the vaccine.
Joe Biden: (32:41)
But we believe that between the second half of 2021 and going in through 2022, we could produce as many as another billion doses of vaccine. And this is what I like about this president. He’s not just talking about any more than I’m just talking about the United States or just Korea. He’s talking about the Indo-Pacific. He’s talking about the world. We with advanced capabilities have an obligation to do everything we can to provide for protection of the entire world. I know that is an awfully, awfully, awfully ambitious proposal. But I think the nations that have that capacity are going to be continuing to work toward getting that done. And so, thank you.
Speaker 8: (33:29)
Is there time for one more, Mr. President?
Joe Biden: (33:31)
If you’re not asking me a mean one like you usually do.
Speaker 8: (33:34)
It’s, I think, interesting, I think, but it has not come up. President Obama says that there is footage and records of objects in the skies, these unidentified aerial phenomenon. And he says, “we don’t know exactly what they are.” What do you think that it is?
Joe Biden: (33:55)
I would ask him again. Thank you. Come on, [inaudible 00:33:57]. Let’s go.