(CNN)The US will provide Covid-19 vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean service members who work in close contact with American forces, President Joe Biden announced Friday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in thanked Biden at a joint news conference on Friday at the White House and said the move extended the two countries’ alliance “to the field of health in a meaningful measure.”
The two leaders also unveiled a new vaccine partnership to expand manufacturing and scale up global vaccine supply.
“We believe that between the second half of 2021 and going in through 2022 we could produce as many as another billion doses of vaccine,” Biden said.
Biden commended his South Korean counterpart for focusing on vaccinating the entire Indo-Pacific region.
“This is what I like about this President: He’s not just talking about any more than I’m just talking about the United States or just Korea, he’s talking about the Indo-Pacific. He’s talking about the world,” Biden said.
The President continued: “We, with advanced capabilities, have an obligation to do everything we can to provide for protection of the entire world.”
Biden hosted the South Korean President at the White House on Friday for bilateral talks, and it was the second in-person meeting with a world leader of his presidency as he seeks to turn his foreign policy focus back to East Asia.
The two leaders spoke about their shared approach to North Korea and the hermit kingdom’s nuclear missile program, Biden said.
“We both are deeply concerned about the situation,” Biden said. “Our two nations also share a willingness to engage diplomatically with the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions as we move toward our ultimate goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Biden announced Sung Kim, the acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, would serve as the US special envoy to the DPRK, the US government’s official name for North Korea.
The meetings come after the Biden administration completed its months-long North Korea policy review. Biden said Friday his team consulted closely with Moon’s team throughout the process of the review.
“Today has not only been affirmation of our shared history of sacrifice that binds the Republic of Korea and … the United States together, it’s a commitment to expanding cooperation and shaping our shared future in accordance with our democratic values that have made our nation strong and agile and highly competitive in the 21st century’s economies,” Biden said.
The meetings come as the Biden administration faces a foreign policy test amid an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas ending with a ceasefire Thursday. Biden has sought to deprioritize the Middle East in his overall foreign policy, viewing strategic competition with China as paramount to his administration’s goals. On Friday, he returned his attention to East Asia.
Biden welcomed Moon to the White House Friday afternoon for bilateral talks that were expected to center on North Korea and other areas of cooperation like trade and climate change.
“President Moon and I and our teams have had good meetings addressing our shared agenda,” Biden told reporters ea
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