Kamala Harris greets South Korean president ahead of Biden meeting

Kamala Harris greets South Korean president ahead of Biden meeting

05/21/2021

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Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday once again served as President Biden’s opening act ahead of his second foreign-leader visit to the White House.

Harris, who has taken an increasingly prominent role in diplomacy on Biden’s behalf, exchanged pleasantries with South Korean President Moon Jae-in the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The two then shared a moment gazing at the White House from one of the building’s balconies — repeating a choreography seen last month during Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit.

Harris told Moon during brief public remarks, “President Joe Biden and I am confident that together we can promote a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, a region that is unconstrained by coercion and anchored in international rules and order.”

She said, “At a time when our world faces increasing threats to our health, security and climate, it is more important than ever that the United States and the Republic of Korea work closely together.”

Moon, who recently sparred with former President Donald Trump, told Harris, “My congratulations on how the Biden-Harris administration is building back better with the world’s most successful vaccine deployment and fastest economic recovery and blazing a trail for inclusiveness and unity by restoring the soul of America.”

Biden will meet with Moon later in the day. The leaders will award the Medal of Honor to Korean War veteran Ralph Puckett and hold a joint press conference.

Harris has increasingly been working directly with world leaders on Biden’s behalf. Although former Vice President Mike Pence also communicated with some world leaders directly, Harris has been tasked with doing so in some high-stakes moments.

On Thursday, it was Harris and not Biden who phoned Jordanian King Abdullah II to discuss US support for an Israel-Hamas cease-fire. And next month, she will lead a US diplomatic mission to Mexico and Guatemala to attempt to stem a historic surge of migrants crossing the US border.

The back-to-back visits by the Japanese and South Korean leaders underscore US concerns about nuclear-armed North Korea and increasingly aggressive moves by China.

Moon, who leaves office next year, said in a recent interview that Trump “beat around the bush and failed to pull it through” on disarming North Korea. Trump shot back that Moon was “weak” and ungrateful for his work to pacify Kim.

So far, Biden has kept Trump trade tariffs on Chinese goods and promotion of the return of manufacturing to the US, and continued the Trump-era condemnations of China’s records on human rights after a surge in tensions over the concealment of data on COVID-19’s initial outbreak.

But Biden has taken some conciliatory steps toward China, including rejoining the World Health Organization, which Trump walked away from for parroting inaccurate Chinese data on the virus before it spread overseas.

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