Biden back in Washington after affirming U.S. commitment to Asia

Dec. 7, 2013 at 10:15 PM   |   0 comments

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden landed back in the United States Saturday, ending his trip to Asia where he reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the region.

Air Force Two, the vice president's official plane, touched down at 6:47 p.m. EST at Andrews Air Force Base. During his six-day trip to Japan, China and South Korea that covered 13,805 nautical miles.

Biden spent the past two days of his trip in South Korea.

"Welcome to the edge of freedom," a pool report quoted a military police guide as telling the vice president during a visit to a border post overlooking the dividing line between North and South Korea.

During his brief visit to Observation Post Ouellette, Biden visited with U.S. and South Korean troops.

China's recent unilateral decision to expand its air defense zone dominated Biden's talks Friday with President Park Geun-hye and other South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported.

After hearing the South Korean president explain Seoul's stance on the issue, Washington and Seoul "agreed to continue close consultations" on the issue, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said.

South Korea, the United States and Japan have flown aircraft through the zone without yielding to Beijing's demand to be notified before hand of any aircraft entering the zone.

The United States says it will not recognize China's new air defense zone.

China's announcement came as South Korea prepared to expand its own air defense identification zone.

"I want to make one thing absolutely clear," Biden said as he began talks with Park. "President Obama's decision to rebalance to the Pacific basin is not in question."

Before his visit to the border Saturday, Biden laid a wreath at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Noting that some of the names of the dead inscribed on the memorial were of members of families from his native Delaware, Biden said "it brings home how real and how necessary our continued presence here is," a transcript provided by the White House said.

Afterward, Biden applauded North Korea for "the positive thing they've done" in releasing Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old California man detained by Pyongyang since late October.

"I offered him a ride home on Air Force Two, but as he pointed out, there's a direct flight to San Francisco, his home," Biden said. "So I don't blame him. I'd be on that flight too."

The vice president urged North Korea to release Kenneth Bae, another U.S. citizen, imprisoned in the communist country since November 2012.

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