“I think the South Koreans have put a really big emphasis on vaccine diplomacy as the big deliverable of this summit,” said Victor Cha, professor and associate dean at Georgetown University, Friday, “Street Signs Asia ”from CNBC.
The meeting with Moon will be Biden’s second in-person summit with a leader of the country. Last month, the US President met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington.
Domestic pressure has mounted on Moon to push for faster vaccine deliveries, as rising Covid cases have forced authorities to repeatedly extend social distancing measures. Moon has pledged to achieve “herd immunity” by November, but a global vaccine shortage threatens his promise. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient number of people in the population are vaccinated or infected and the disease can no longer spread in the wild.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
South Korea approved Moderna’s Covid vaccine on Friday – the fourth approval after giving the green light to those developed by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, Reuters reported.
The vaccine shortage comes as infections increase over the past month. South Korean authorities on Friday extended social distancing measures by three weeks as daily cases are still high.
The country has reported a total of more than 134,600 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of last year, with 1,922 deaths, according to the latest official data.
North Korea takes a back seat
“I think President Moon is obviously more interested in moving quickly on North Korea given that he has less than a year left in his term,” Cha said. The professor is an American who served as director of Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council from 2004 to 2007, and is senior vice president and Korean chairman of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said Biden was “not against” diplomacy with North Korea, but that the administration could have a lot to do, including tensions in the Middle East and strategic competition with China.
Still, Moon and Biden are likely to signal that they are in “full alignment” on the issues surrounding North Korea, Cha added.
Ahn Ho-young, former South Korea’s ambassador to the United States from 2013 to 2017, agreed that the summit could cover issues other than North Korea.
Ahn told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Friday that while in Washington, the leaders of the United States and South Korea spent a lot of time discussing issues related to North Korea.
“I think this summit is rather unique… because this time I think. We expect our leaders to discuss more, spend more time on issues such as vaccines, batteries or semiconductors, ”he said.
“There are so many things we could do together between Korea and the United States. “