US President Joe Biden has tended to both business and security interests as he wrapped up a three-day visit to South Korea on Sunday.
Mr Biden showcased Hyundai’s pledge to invest at least 10 billion dollars (£8 billion) in electric vehicles and related technologies in the US.
In his final stop before heading to Japan, Mr Biden visited Osan Air Base, where US and South Korean troops monitor the rapidly evolving North Korean nuclear threat.
“You are the front line, right here in this room,” Mr Biden said in a command centre with maps of the Korean peninsula projected across screens on a wall. Afterwards, Mr Biden chatted with troops and their dependents at the base’s bowling alley.
Mr Biden’s overall visit to Asia is intended to demonstrate the US commitment to the region’s security. Earlier on Sunday, he brushed aside questions about any possible provocation by North Korea, such as testing a nuclear weapon or missile during his trip.
“We are prepared for anything North Korea does,” he said.
Asked if he had a message for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, Biden offered a clipped response. “Hello,” he said. “Period.”
It was another sharp departure from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who once said he “fell in love” with Mr Kim.
Hyundai’s investment includes 5.5 billion dollars for an electric vehicle and battery factory in Georgia.
Appearing with the US leader, Hyundai chief executive Euisun Chung said his company would spend another five billion on artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles and other technologies.
“Electric vehicles are good for our climate goals, but they’re also good for jobs,” Mr Biden said. “And they’re good for business.”
The major US investment by a South Korean company is a reflection of how the US and South Korea are leveraging their longstanding military ties into a broader economic partnership.
The US president has made greater economic co-operation with South Korea a priority, saying on Saturday that “it will bring our two countries even closer together, cooperating even more closely than we already do, and help strengthen our supply chains, secure them against shocks and give our economies a competitive edge”.
The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has forced a deeper rethinking of national security and economic alliances.
Coronavirus outbreaks led to shortages of computer chips, autos and other goods that the Biden administration says can ultimately be fixed by having more manufacturing domestically and with trusted allies.
Mr Biden’s meeting on Sunday with Hyundai’s chief comes after the president made an earlier stop at a computer chip plant run by Samsung, the Korean electronics giant that plans to build a 17 billion dollar (£13.6 billion) production facility in Texas.
Hyundai’s Georgia factory is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually, with plans for construction to begin early next year and production to start in 2025 near the unincorporated town of Ellabell.
Before meeting Hyundai’s chief, Mr Biden attended Mass at his hotel in Seoul along with some White House staff.
Along with Korean President Yoon Sook Yeol, Mr Biden on Saturday announced they will consider expanded joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
Mr Yoon campaigned on a promise to strengthen the US-South Korea relationship. He reiterated at a dinner on Saturday in Mr Biden’s honour that it was his goal to move the relationship “beyond security” issues with North Korea, which have long dominated the relationship.
“I will try and design a new future vision of our alliances with you, Mr President,” Mr Yoon said.
Mr Biden heads to Tokyo later on Sunday. On Monday, he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and lay out his vision for negotiating a new trade agreement called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.