South Korea, US set to move closer under Joe Biden, but China has concerns

South Korea, US set to move closer under Joe Biden, but China has concerns

The military alliance between Washington and Seoul is expected to be strengthened as the new US administration moves to repair ties with its key ally on the Korean peninsula, amid its rivalry with China and concerns over North Korea.

In an early sign of a stronger alliance under the Joe Biden administration, South Korea’s Defence Minister Suh Wook announced that the annual spring military exercises with the US would be resumed this year.

Previously held every March, the drills were either suspended or downsized each year since 2018 as part of the then US president Donald Trump’s effort to maintain a truce he had struck with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The exercise was downscaled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision to resume was announced days after the first telephone call between Suh and Lloyd Austin, the new US defence secretary, who assured Seoul of the United States’ “ironclad” commitment to defending its long-term ally through their combined defence work.