President Joe Biden said Sunday, his final day in South Korea, that he would tell North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ‘hello’ if they spoke.
His extremely literal answer came after a Sunday morning appearance alongside Hyundai’s Chairman Chung Eui-sun to tout the Korean carmaker’s fresh commitment to build an electric car and battery plant outsider of Savannah, Georgia.
While Biden made a point to highlight South Korean investment in the U.S. on his first trip to Asia as president, the specter of a North Korean missile or nuclear test hung over the visit.
‘We are prepared for anything North Korea does,’ Biden told reporters. ‘I’m not concerned if that’s what you’re asking,’ he said to a question about North Korea.
The president was then asked what his message would be to Kim – who has refused entreaties from the Biden White House to engage in denuclearization talks.
‘Hello,’ Biden answered. ‘Period.’
President Joe Biden had a simple message for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. ‘Hello,’ Biden answered when asked what he would say Kim. ‘Period.’
‘It would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious,’ President Joe Biden said at a press conference when asked whether he would meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un
The president was also asked about Kim at his Saturday press conference alongside South Korea’s new leader, President Yoon Suk Yeol, who’s been in office just 12 days.
Biden was asked if the U.S. would consider sending COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea, as the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’ is experiencing skyrocketing coronavirus cases.
‘Yes we’ve offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we’re prepared to do that immediately,’ Biden said.
‘We’ve gotten no response,’ he added.
On meeting with Kim – who thrice met former President Donald Trump – Biden included caveats.
‘With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, it would depend on whether he was sincere and whether it was serious.’
For days leading up to Biden’s trip to Asia, U.S. officials warned that Kim seemed ready to make a statement by firing off another ICBM for conducting a nuclear test.
As of Sunday afternoon, there hadn’t been a North Korean test.
President Joe Biden spent time Sunday with both American and Korean troops at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Korea. The president had two servings of ice cream as he mingled with servicemembers and their families
President Joe Biden shakes the hand of a youngster at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaak, South Korea on Sunday
President Joe Biden hugs a little girl Sunday at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. It marked Biden’s final stop in South Korea before heading Sunday afternoon to Japan
Before departing South Korea, Biden visited with American embassy staff and then U.S. and Korean troops at the Osan Air Base in Pyongtaek City, again with Korean President Yoon.
‘First of all I want to say thank you and I wish you’d work on your biceps more,’ Biden told servicemembers, catering the bicep remark to the airman sitting directly in front of him.
‘Our alliance is formed through shared sacrifices of the Korean War and several decades later thanks to you the Republic of Korea is a strong thriving democracy,’ the president continued.
‘All the American troops that are here and your families, thank you for what you do for our country and our allies,’ he added. ‘And to the Korean forces thank you as well.’
Biden said he wouldn’t attempt trying to speak Korean, but offered: ‘We go together.’
‘And by the way, we go together,’ he told Yoon, who at first didn’t realize the American president was extending his hand his way.
The two leaders then shook hands.
Yoon said he was thankful to the ‘airmen and airwoman’ – after on Saturday stumbling over a question at the joint press conference with Biden over the advancement of Korean women.
Yoon spoke of the threat of North Korea, but said he was reassured because South Korea had the support of the U.S.
‘I feel reassured seeing you today as the center of our defense,’ the new Korean president said.
Biden then mingled with military families.
He grabbed two servings of ice cream – first chocolate chip and then chocolate and vanilla – while heading over to talk to some of the kids.
Biden was asked about the recent outbreaks of monkeypox before he boarded Air Force One to Japan.
‘They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,’ the president said, adding, ‘we’re working on it hard to figure out what we do and what vaccine, if any, might be available for it.’
‘It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential,’ he added. ‘That’s all they told me.’