US President Biden to travel to South Korea and Japan in May

In Tokyo, US President Joe Biden will also meet with the leaders of the Quad grouping. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Joe Biden will travel to South Korea and Japan in May, the White House announced on Wednesday (April 27), paying a visit to two of Washington's main Asian allies amid tensions with rival China and regional foe North Korea.

During the May 20-24 trip, Mr Biden will meet the leaders of the two countries with the aim of advancing his "administration's rock-solid commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and to US treaty alliances with the Republic of Korea and Japan," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

In Tokyo, Mr Biden will also meet with the leaders of the Quad grouping which additionally includes Australia, Japan and India, and is seen as a bulwark against an increasingly assertive China.

The Biden administration has repeatedly characterised the Asia-Pacific region, and particularly the rise of communist China, as the number one strategic issue for the United States.

China and the United States, the world's two biggest economies, are at loggerheads over trade, human rights and, more broadly, what Mr Biden often portrays as a defining struggle in the 21st century between the globe's autocracies and democracies.

The visit also comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has test-fired a slew of banned weapons this year while ignoring US offers of talks and vowing to accelerate his nuclear program rapidly.

During Mr Biden's bilateral meetings with South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, he will "discuss opportunities to deepen our vital security relationships, enhance economic ties, and expand our close cooperation to deliver practical results", Ms Psaki said.

The visit will come after a US-Asean special summit of South-east Asian leaders in Washington from May 12-13.

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