President Joe Biden will begin his five-day Asia trip with a visit to a Samsung semiconductor plant Friday, a stop meant to demonstrate the growing cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea on technology and other issues.
When South Korea’s previous president, Moon Jae-in, traveled to Washington last year, the nations announced “mutual and complementary investments” in semiconductors and batteries for electric cars. The intent is to expand production of key products and strengthen supply chains to be less reliant on China.
Legislation is also pending in Congress to bolster U.S. chip production to better compete with China.
The plant Biden will tour is a similar model to what Samsung is building in Texas. That multi-billion dollar investment will mean good-paying jobs for Americans and increase supply chain resilience, said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Biden, Sullivan said, “will reinforce is that this ecosystem of high technology among democracies and free societies needs to be protected against predation by other countries.”
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Biden will be met at the plant by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who was recently elected after promising during his campaign to deepen the nation’s alliance with the United States.
Yoon’s predecessor, Moon, had taken a more cautious approach to the relationship to avoid provoking China.
Besides expanding the bilateral alliance with the U.S., Yoon also wants to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific, where the Biden administration is working to bolster an alliance among democratic countries to counter China’s growing economic and military might.
“South Korea has been described as a missing link in the Indo-Pacific,” said Kuyoun Chung, an assistant professor of political science at Kangwon National University.
China has already signaled its displeasure with Yoon’s interest in joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework that Biden is scheduled to roll out during his trip.
The IPEF is the administration’s attempt to help steer economic strategy in the region after former President Donald Trump took the United States out of a trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries. It will focus on trade, strengthening the supply chain, infrastructure and clean energy issues, taxes, and anti-corruption.
The inclusion of South Korea, which has the world’s 10th largest economy, into the IPEF would be a significant boost to the administration’s attempt to strengthen security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, according to Andrew Yeo, an Asia expert at the Brookings Institution.
“By stopping first in Seoul,” Yeo recently wrote, “Biden is recognizing that the Yoon government’s promise to play a larger global role is a major step in that direction.”
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