SEOUL: United States (US) Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday there should be no doubt about US commitment to its strategic shift to Asia as he wound up a regional tour dominated by security concerns.
In talks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and later in a speech at Seoul’s Yonsei University, Biden reiterated US opposition to a new Chinese air defense identification zone that has fulled regional tensions—especially between Beijing and Japan.
At the same time, he underlined the regional—and global—unity in the face of the “clear and present danger” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“Let there be no doubt, the United States is committed to do what it takes to defend our allies and ourselves against North Korean aggression. Period,” he said in his speech.
The threat posed by Pyongyang was underlined by the publication on Thursday of new satellite images that appeared to show increased activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site, in line with the regime’s vows to expand its weapons program.
In his talks with Park, Biden stressed there would be no change to President Barack Obama’s new security strategy that emphasizes a shift, or “pivot,” toward the Asia region in recognition of China’s growing military power.
“I want to make one thing absolutely clear: President Obama’s decision to rebalance to the Pacific basin is not in question,” Biden said as the two leaders sat down for talks.
“The United States never says anything it does not do. It’s never been a good bet to bet against America . . . and America will continue to place its bet on South Korea,” he added.
Seoul was Biden’s last stop on a three-country Asia tour that has already taken him to Japan and China.
President Park pressed Biden on China’s new “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) which, as well as inflaming Beijing’s territorial disputes with Japan, also overlaps South Korea’s own ADIZ.
Seoul has threatened to announce the expansion of its ADIZ in retaliation—a move Biden was seeking to discourage as Washington seeks to calm what is already a dangerously volatile mood in the region.
Acknowledging the “considerable apprehension” triggered by China’s declaration, Biden stressed that Washington did not recognize the new zone.