Blinken and Austin Head to South Korea to Reaffirm Trans-Pacific Partnership

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Blinken and Austin Head to South Korea to Reaffirm Trans-Pacific Partnership

US Secretary of State warns China against using coercion and aggression to achieve its goals in the region

SEOUL – Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to South Korea on Wednesday after warning China that the Joe Biden administration would respond to Beijing’s coercion and aggression in the region.

Blinken and Austin left Tokyo, where they held talks with their Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi to reaffirm the trans-Pacific partnership in the face of an increasingly assertive China and hostile North Korea.

In a joint statement released after the meeting, Blinken pledged that the Biden administration will “fight back, if necessary if China uses coercion and aggression to get its way.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that US-Japanese relations should not “harm the interests of third parties.”

Finding common ground on how to force North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime into dialogue is another priority area for Blinken and Austin during their four-day tour of Asia.

President Biden has yet to release his strategy for North Korea, but policy analysis is underway.

Austin and Blinken will hold separate talks with their South Korean counterparts and will also meet with them in a 2 + 2 format on Thursday. This will be the first such contact between the two countries in five years.

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Since February, the Biden administration has tried to reach Pyongyang through multiple diplomatic channels but has received no response, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

The silence was broken on Tuesday when Kim Yeo-Jung, an influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, issued a statement accusing the Biden administration of seeking to “spread the smell of gunpowder across our land from across the ocean.”

Kim Yeo-Jung warned the new administration against “letting out the stench” unless it wants to “lose sleep” for the next four years.

Asked for comment on Kim Yeo-Jung’s statement, Blinken said at a press conference in Tokyo that he is familiar with him but is more interested in the point of view of allies and partners.

Blinken said the Biden administration expects to complete a policy analysis on North Korea in the coming weeks and is exploring both possible “additional pressure measures” and “diplomatic paths.”

However, he did not go into details.