US, South Korea could expand military exercises as deterrence to North Korea, leaders announce

The United States and South Korea are considering expanding military exercises in and around the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea’s progressing missile and nuclear program, the two countries announced Saturday.

President Joe Biden also said he could meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un under certain conditions.

“That would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious,” Biden said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Yoon took office less than two weeks ago after a closely contested March election in which he vowed to bolster South Korea’s defenses against North Korea.

Speaking through an interpreter, Yoon said combined military exercises are “key to our combined defense capability” and “we are going to step up our exercises.”

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The formal joint statement released by the leaders was less definitive. It said the leaders agreed “to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula.”

Their summit, the earliest an American president has visited South Korea after an election, was an opportunity for Biden and Yoon to develop a personal relationship. That will help Yoon meet another campaign promise of deepening the alliance between the two countries and assist Biden’s goal of building a coalition in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s rising influence.

Yoon said he and Biden “see eye-to-eye on so many fronts.”

Biden said the alliance between the countries has never been stronger or more vital.

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