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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Seoul (AFP) – Vice President Joe Biden said Friday there should be no doubt about America’s commitment to its strategic shift to Asia as he wound up a regional tour dominated by security concerns including a new Chinese air zone.

In talks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and later in a speech at Seoul’s Yonsei University, Biden reiterated U.S. opposition to the Chinese zone which has fuelled regional tensions — especially between Beijing and Tokyo.

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 programme.

“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 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 programme.

In his talks with Park, Biden stressed there would be no change to President Barack Obama’s security strategy with its emphasis on a “pivot” towards Asia 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 at the start of the Park meeting.

“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.

“America is a Pacific power — a resident Pacific power — and we are going nowhere. Nowhere.”

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 defence 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 expand its ADIZ in retaliation. The United States is consulting South Korea about that, as it seeks to calm what is already a dangerously volatile mood in the region.