SEOUL ( Associated Press) — U.S. President Joe Biden addressed both trade and security issues Sunday as he wrapped up a three-day tour of South Korea, highlighting Hyundai’s commitment to invest at least $10 billion in the United States and visited troops at a nearby military base.
Biden’s visit to Osan Air Base, where thousands of US and South Korean troops monitor the rapidly evolving North Korean nuclear threat, was his last stop in the country before traveling to Tokyo later on Sunday.
“You are on the front lines, right here in this room,” the president said in a command center where wall screens showed maps of the Korean Peninsula.
The day’s agenda brought together two key messages that Biden is trying to convey on his first trip to Asia as president.
At a time of high inflation and growing discontent at home, Biden underscored his global mission to bolster the US economy by convincing foreign companies like Hyundai to start new operations in the United States. He also wanted to show his solidarity with his concerned Asian allies, who live in the shadow of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and became skeptical of US security commitments when former President Donald Trump was in office.
Earlier on Sunday, Biden downplayed questions about any possible Pyongyang provocations such as a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch during his trip, saying “we are prepared for anything North Korea does.”
Asked if he had a message for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, Biden offered a brief “Hello. Spot”.
It was another major break from the position of Trump, who once said he had “fallen in love” with Kim.
Biden began the day at a rally alongside Hyndai Chairman Eusiun Chung to highlight the firm’s expanded investment in the United States, which would include a $5.5 billion battery and electric vehicle factory in Georgia.
“Electric vehicles are good for our climate goals, but they’re also good for jobs,” Biden said. “And they are good for business.”
Chung said his company would spend another $5 billion on artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles and other technologies.
The large investment by a South Korean firm in the United States reflects how the two countries reinforce their traditional military alliance with closer economic ties.
At another point in the trip, Biden visited a computer processor plant run by Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant, which plans to open a $17 billion manufacturing facility in Texas.
Biden has made economic cooperation with South Korea a priority, saying on Saturday that he will “bring our nations even closer together, cooperating even more closely than we already do, and help strengthen our supply chains, making them more secure.” against broader shocks to give our economies a competitive advantage.”
The coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February have forced a further rethink of economic and security alliances. The coronavirus outbreaks have caused shortages of computer chips, vehicles and other products that the Biden administration says can be fixed with more domestic manufacturing and trusted allies.
Hyundai’s factory in Georgia is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year with production starting in 2025. The plant will be located near the town of Ellabell.
But the Hyundai plant also exposes changes to Biden’s economic agenda.
Earlier in his term, Biden attempted to link electric vehicle production to automakers with union workers. As part of a $1.85 trillion spending proposal he introduced last year that is stalled in the Senate, Biden wanted additional tax credits for buyers of electric vehicles made in unionized plants. That would have given a boost to the unionized auto plants of General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV at a crucial time when union membership has been in steady decline nationally.