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Moon must keep Biden firmly focused on North Korea

Vaccines are the big issue at the US-South Korea summit, but Moon Jae-in must cultivate a personal rapport with Joe Biden to keep the peace with North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in’s five-day visit to Washington is a vital opportunity to offset his dwindling domestic popularity with just over 30 per cent of South Koreans supporting the beleaguered president, compensate for his lame-duck status in the final year of his presidency, re-energize diplomacy with North Korea, and find a solution for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic at home.

South Korea’s health concerns are likely to be highest on the agenda for the summit meeting with Joe Biden as Seoul pushes for a ‘vaccine swap’ agreement that will boost South Korean access to critical vaccine supplies from the US, and a possible domestic licensing production deal enabling it to accelerate vaccination roll-out-rates at home.

But winning US health cooperation requires Moon to offer something substantial in return, potentially a commitment on the part of South Korean semiconductor firms – several CEOs are joining Moon on his visit – to invest in production facilities of semiconductors or electric vehicle batteries in the US to diversify supply-chain dependency away from East Asia and the China market.


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