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Moon: South Korea will have 'no gap' in U.S. alliance under Biden

Moon: South Korea will have 'no gap' in U.S. alliance under Biden
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday Seoul would coordinate closely with the incoming Biden administration to maintain a strong alliance. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE                                                             

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday and vowed to work with his incoming administration to ensure there will be "no gap" in the Seoul-Washington alliance or in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon said the Biden administration would offer "new opportunities" to improve inter-Korean ties, which have remained strained since Pyongyang cut off all communications with Seoul and destroyed a shared liaison office in June.

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"Together with the next government of the United States, our government will further strengthen the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance and continue to develop solid ties between the people of our two countries," Moon said in public comments during a meeting with senior aides at the presidential Blue House.

"We will do our best to ensure that the valuable achievements we have achieved with the Trump administration so far can be passed on to the next government and develop further," he said in his first spoken remarks on the U.S. election.

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On Sunday, Moon posted a congratulatory message for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Twitter.

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U.S. President Donald Trump was at the center of a renewed period of détente on the Korean Peninsula, holding two official summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and meeting with him briefly for a third time in June 2019 in the demilitarized zone.

"In inter-Korean relations, it is expected that an environment in which new opportunities and solutions can be found will be created," Moon said. "We have cooperated well with President Trump on the basis of strong friendship and trust between the leaders, and the U.S. Democratic Party has the experience of closely cooperating with the Democratic Party of Korea in the peace process."

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Under Trump, Washington and Seoul have butted heads over trade issues and the amount that South Korea would contribute to the costs of the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops stationed on the peninsula. The two sides remain at an impasse over a new Special Measures Agreement, the cost-sharing arrangement for the troops, which expired at the end of last year. Washington is looking for Seoul to pay $1.3 billion, a 50% increase over what South Korea paid last year.

Moon promised to work toward greater economic cooperation with the incoming administration through bilateral trade policies and to coordinate efforts in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. He added that the Biden administration's environmental policy goals closely align with his own government's.

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"In particular, the carbon neutrality and climate change response policies emphasized by President-elect Biden are consistent with the Korean government's carbon-neutral goals and Green New Deal policies, so there is great room for cooperation," Moon said.

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The United States officially left the Paris Climate Agreement last week, but Biden has said he'll rejoin the landmark pact to reduce global warming immediately upon taking office.

South Korea's Defense Ministry also promised to continue to closely work together with the Pentagon under the Biden administration on Monday.

"The South Korean and the U.S. defense authorities will strive for maintaining a strong combined defense posture to militarily support the peace process on the Korean Peninsula," ministry spokesman Col. Moon Hong-sik told reporters, according to Yonhap.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha arrived in Washington on Sunday ahead of talks scheduled for Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on strengthening the alliance and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

It is unclear whether she will sit down with figures from the Biden camp, although Kang told reporters she would try to meet members of Congress and academia on the trip, which lasts until Wednesday.

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North Korea has not released any statements so far regarding the U.S. election.

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