Biden vows not to extort S. Korea with troop withdrawal threats

October 30, 2020

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged Friday to strengthen the alliance with South Korea, rather than “extorting Seoul with reckless threats to remove our troops,” and keep pressing toward North Korea’s denuclearization through “principled diplomacy.”

Biden made the pledge in a special article contributed exclusively to Yonhap News Agency just days ahead of the U.S. presidential election, reciting the catch phrase of the Korea-U.S. alliance, “Katchi Kapshida,” or “We Go Together.”

“As president, I’ll stand with South Korea, strengthening our alliance to safeguard peace in East Asia and beyond, rather than extorting Seoul with reckless threats to remove our troops,” Biden said in the article, titled “Hope for Our Better Future.”

“I’ll engage in principled diplomacy and keep pressing toward a denuclearized North Korea and a unified Korean Peninsula, while working to reunite Korean Americans separated from loved ones in North Korea for decades,” he said.

Biden’s first contribution to a South Korean media outlet in the election year came four days before he will face off President Donald Trump in what has already become one of the most contentious presidential races in modern U.S. history.

Biden recalled his 2013 visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the inter-Korean border.

“I will never forget standing less than 100 feet away from North Korea at the DMZ with my granddaughter, Finnegan, beside me. I felt the pain of division on the Korean Peninsula and the separation of families since the Korean War,” he said.

“It was more visceral, because earlier in the day, I had just laid the wreath at the War Memorial of Korea to honor the 36,574 American soldiers who died during war,” he said, stressing that the alliance between the two countries was “forged in blood.”

Biden praised South Korea’s miraculous rise from the ashes of the war to become “a shining example of a flourishing democracy and economic powerhouse.” He said the South has also been “a global leader in the fight against COVID-19; and a strong ally in the region, to advance our shared prosperity, values, and security, and to meet global challenges.”

Biden said the about 2 millions Korean Americans in the U.S. have made “innumerable” contributions, “especially during these tough times when the United States is at a crossroads, facing a pandemic, a recession, and an election that will decide our futures for a very long time.”

“For more than a century, Korean Americans have made our country strong — from the very first immigrants in Hawaii on January 13, 1903, to the rising entrepreneurs and business owners driving us forward now,” he said.

Biden promised efforts to help all immigrants, including undocumented Koreans.

“I’ve fought my whole career to support hard-working immigrant families who came to America to build a better life,” Biden wrote in his special contribution. “I’ll work to fix our broken immigration system, provide a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented Koreans, and recognize the tens of thousands of Korean adoptees as the Americans they are.”

“I’ll fight for a better future for all our children and grandchildren. Katchi Kapshida,” he said.

The U.S. election is watched closely in South Korea because it will have a profound impact on how the U.S. deals with a series of key issues facing the two countries, including North Korea’s denuclearization.

Trump has held three historical meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader in June 2018, when the two held the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit.

Biden insists the three Trump-Kim meetings with no “thought-out plans” have achieved nothing, except giving the North Korean leader the global recognition that he had long desired.

He also maintains the U.S.’ relationships with its key allies, including South Korea, have significantly deteriorated under the Trump administration.

“He (Trump) embraces every dictator in sight, and he pokes his finger in the eye of all our friends,” Biden said earlier in an interview with U.S. TV network CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Trump has often criticized U.S. allies, including South Korea, as free riders.

“Our allies in many ways treat us worse than the enemy. The enemy, at least we have our guard up. Our allies, what they’ve done to us in terms of military protection and trade is disgraceful,” Trump said earlier Thursday while speaking at a political rally in Tampa, Florida.

The Trump administration is viewed to be using a possible drawdown of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Seoul to set the latter’s share of burden in maintaining some 28,500 U.S. soldiers there.

Seoul has offered to increase its cost sharing burden by 13 percent from the US$870 million it paid under last year’s agreement, but the negotiations are currently deadlocked, with Washington reportedly seeking a 50 percent spike to $1.3 billion, which still marks a sharp drop from $5 billion a year Trump initially demanded.

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