Global Views
   Middle East & Africa
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 English Teaching
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
Critical Questions
Biden-Moon Summit: Rejuvenating and Modernizing US-South Korea Alliance
Victor Cha's Written Analysis of Summit Meeting
By Victor Cha
CSIS Korea Chair
S. Korean President Moon Jae-In (left) meets with US President Joe Biden for s summit in Washington DC on May 21, 2021.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In is set to visit Washington this week for a summit with US President Joe Biden on May 21, 2021. These critical questions preview what the two leaders are likely to discuss as well as the pressing issues in the US-South Korea relationship.

Q1: What is the setting for this summit?

A1: This is the 10th meeting between President Moon and a US president, and the first with President Biden. President Moon is the second foreign head of state to visit the Biden White House, following Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, a reflection of the priority placed by the Biden administration on rejuvenating US alliances in Asia. The administration did well to clear the underbrush in the alliance of nettlesome issues so that the two leaders could start afresh. Prominent among these was the conclusion of the 11th Special Measures Agreement signed in April, which commits the two allies to a cost-sharing plan for US Forces Korea and requires no renegotiation for six years. This issue remained unresolved for the duration of the Donald Trump presidency and was the source of both distraction and bad blood between the two sides. The two leaders will likely reaffirm the strength of the alliance and undertake measures to enhance defense and extended deterrence, including possible improvements to South Korea’s strike capabilities.

Q2: What about policy toward North Korea?

Victor Cha, Senior Vice President & Korea Chair of CSIS
A2: The Biden administration at the end of April completed its long-awaited policy review that included significant consultations with South Korea. Ahead of the summit, administration officials state that they are comfortable with the degree of alignment between Seoul and Washington, deflecting views that the engagement-oriented Moon and more cautious Biden are far apart on how to approach North Korea. While details of the review have not been made public, the administration has made clear: (1) the goal remains denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (North Korea); (2) the likelihood of a “grand bargain” is small; and (3) there is a commitment to diplomacy (i.e., not strategic patience) with a desire to negotiate incremental steps that make meaningful progress toward reducing the threat. The fact that Seoul has not raised expectations in advance of the summit of some breathtaking proposals suggests a collective realization that Pyongyang is not cycling into a dialogue mode just yet. Indeed, North Korea might await the results of the summit before engaging in typical provocations, such as missile tests, to raise the price for their return to the negotiating table.

Q3: Why is the Moon government focusing on Covid-19 diplomacy at this summit?

A3: The Moon government has significantly raised expectations of US help on Covid-19 vaccines and will use this issue as a barometer for the success of the summit. This is a bit of a gamble as South Korea does not meet the traditional metrics for access to surplus supplies of US vaccines. It is not poor; it is not without an adequate, assured supply (having secured upwards of 99 million total doses); nor does it have runaway virus spread in the country like, for example, India. Nevertheless, South Korea is pushing hard for some vaccine support from the United States in the second quarter of 2021 because its own supplies will not be secured until the third or fourth quarter of this year, which may be late for the government’s promise to reach herd immunity (70 percent) by November. Currently, only 1 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

While South Korea may not meet the standard metrics for US vaccine surplus distribution, there are a range of possible alternatives that could benefit both countries. These include a vaccine swap agreement (immediate vaccine supply to South Korea in return for South Korean supplies of mRNA vaccines later this year) or arrangements to have South Korea aid the United States in global production and distribution of vaccines through contractual manufacturing or technological licensing agreements. South Korea’s top bioscience companies are already producing AstraZeneca vaccines domestically and are in negotiations with Moderna.

Such cooperation on global health, along with climate and technology issues (discussed below), would be admirable ways to advance a “New Frontiers” agenda in the US-South Korea alliance that allows the relationship to provide public goods and reinforce the rules-based international order. (For more, CSIS recommendations for the US-South Korea alliance.)

Q4: What about economics and trade?

A4: We should expect to see some announcements on major South Korean investments in two areas of importance for the Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiative: climate and technology. These include major new investments by Samsung in chip foundry production in Texas; Hyundai-Kia Motors in electronic vehicle production plants in Alabama and Georgia; and SK and LG in lithium battery production in Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee. While these investments will produce new jobs for Americans, they also benefit South Korea in two ways. First, these investments will comply with new rules of origin requirements for domestic sales in the United States of South Korean automobiles under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Second, they will allow South Korea to keep future production of high-end technology in a trusted and predictable political and legal environment in comparison with production in China.

Q5: Are there other possible deliverables?

A5: The prominence of democratic values, technology, global health, reliable supply chains, and climate issues at this summit overlaps very closely with the agenda of the Quad grouping involving the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. South Korea’s hesitance to join the Quad reflects deep concerns about Chinese retaliation, not unlike what it experienced over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system several years ago. Yet a clear success of the summit for Biden’s coalitional approach to diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific would be Seoul joining the Quad. Though this may be a bridge too far right now, one can be certain that serious discussions will take place behind closed doors, perhaps setting the stage for Seoul to join the grouping in the future.

Victor Cha is senior vice president and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and vice dean for faculty and graduate affairs and D.S. Song-KF professor of government at Georgetown University. He can be contacted at

Related Articles
    Christopher B. Johnstone Joins CSIS as Japan ...
    China Unveils its 1st Long-Term Hydrogen Plan
    Filling In the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework
    Five Things to Watch in 2022
    Is China Building a New String of Pearls in ...
    China Ramping Up Its Electronic Warfare, ...
    A New Chapter in U.S.-China LNG Relations
    Previewing the 2021 Summit for Democracy
    China: The Growing Military Challenge: Volume ...
    The Case for US-Japan-ROK Cooperation on ...
    China's Commitment to Stop Overseas Financing ...
    China Headaches for Iran Nuclear Deal
    The Quad's Strategic Infrastructure Play
    China, Again and Again and Again
    Engaging China on Climate before COP26
    When Will the United States Have a Special ...
    Is Latin America Important to China's Foreign ...
    Chinese National Oil Companies Face the Energy ...
    Four Years On: An Update on Rohingya Crisis
    11th Annual South China Sea Conference: ...
    A Glimpse of Chinese Ballistic Missile ...
    US Defense Chief Austin Accomplishes Two ...
    China’s New National Carbon Trading Market: ...
    Progress Report on China’s Type 003 Carrier
    Geopolitical Implications of Scientific ...
    China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Takes Shape
    Strategic Competition and Foreign Perceptions ...
    Bonny Lin, Ex-RAND Scientist, to Join CSIS
    Beyond Polysilicon: The Ties between China’s ...
    S. Korean President Moon Jae-In to Meet with ...
    China’s New Space Station Is a Stepping-Stone ...
    Future Scenarios for Leadership Succession in ...
    How China Affects Global Maritime Connectivity
    What Do Overseas Visits Reveal about China’s ...
    CSIS Commission on the Korean Peninsula: ...
    Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of the ...
    Understanding China’s 2021 Defense Budget
    China’s Opaque Shipyards Should Raise Red ...
    How Developed Is China’s Arms Industry?
    Myanmar’s Military Seizes Power
    A Complex Inheritance: Transitioning to a New ...
    Combatting Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang
    How Covid-19 Affected US-China Military ...
    Previewing the G-20 and APEC Summits
    Another US-Built Facility at Ream Bites the ...
    Vietnam Currency Investigation: Strategy and ...
    CSIS Press Briefing: U.S. Policy toward Taiwan
    Mapping the Future of U.S. China Policy
    Assessing the Direction of South Korea-Japan ...
    Chinese Investment in the Maldives: Appraising ...
    Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged ...
    Shinzo Abe’s Decision to Step Down
    A Frozen Line in the Himalayas
    Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur ...
    Decoupling Kabuki: Japan’s Effort to Reset, ...
    Remote Control: Japan's Evolving Senkakus ...
    Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility
    China Won’t Be Scared into Choosing ...
    What’s on the Horizon for Covid-19
    Next Steps for the Coronavirus Response
    COVID-19 Threatens Global Food Security
    Geopolitics and the Novel Coronavirus
    Hope for the Climate
    The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
    What's Inside the US-China Phase One Deal?
    When Iran Attacks
    Ports and Partnerships: Delhi Invests in ...
    Seeking Clues in Case of the Yuemaobinyu 42212
    Signaling Sovereignty: Chinese Patrols at ...
    Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum ...
    Japan and Korea: Rising Above the Fray
    Only US Can Pull Japan, Korea Back from Brink
    China Risks Flare-Up over Malaysian, ...
    Fear Won’t Stop China’s Digital Silk Road
    Japan, N. Korea: Summit, Missiles, Abductions
    “Chinese, Russian Influence in the Middle ...
    Tracking China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier
    CSIS Scholars Discuss Trump-Abe Summit
    Still Under Pressure: Manila Vs. the Militia
    Is North Korea Preparing for a Military Parade?
    Slow and Steady: Vietnam's Spratly Upgrades
    Sanctions against North Korea: An Unintended ...
    More Is Possible Now to Address North Korea’s ...
    North Korea Reportedly Renews Commitment to ...
    Settling Kurdish Self-Determination in ...
    The Trump Administration’s Trade Objectives ...
    How Is China Securing Its LNG Needs?
    Responding to the Xinjiang Surveillance State ...
    Rethinking U.S. Strategy in the Pacific Islands
    Will the Election Results Turn the Tide on ...
    China, US Choose Between 4 “Cs” Conflict, ...
    Shinzo Abe Rolls On
    Necessary Counterterrorism Conversations
    Trade and Wages
    North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities ...
    Negotiating the Right Agreement: Looking ...
    The Korean Civil-Military Balance
    Will Trump-Kim Summit Be Cancelled?
    The Chinese Are Coming! The Chinese Are Coming!
    How Much Have the Chinese Actually Taken?
    The Other Side of N. Korean Threat: Looking ...
    The Other Side of the North Korean, Iranian, ...
    CSIS & Syracuse's Maxwell School Offer ...
    Dr. Sue Mi Terry Joins CSIS as Senior Fellow ...
    EU to Social Media: Regulate or Be Regulated
    Japan’s Lower House Election: Abe Prevails ...
    China and Technology: Tortoise and Hare Again
    "Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia"

Other Articles by Prof. Victor Cha
     The Burgeoning North Korea Missile Threat
     Sinpo South Shipyard Update: North Korea ...
     N. Korea Shows Signs of Reprocessing ...
     Business as Usual: North Korea Restarts ...
     CSIS Commission on the Korean Peninsula: ...

Dr. Victor Cha is Korea Chair of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). He earned his MA from Oxford, and Ph.D. from Columbia. Many books he authored include the award-winning author of "Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle." As prolific writers of articles on int'l relations in such journals as Foreign Affairs and The Washington Quarterly, he also interacts frequently with CNN, NYT, and Washington Post as well as Korean media.






The Seoul Times Shinheungro 25-gil 2-6 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange