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First stop Samsung: Biden touts cooperation with S.Korean chipmaker on Asia trip

Biden landed at the U.S. air base in Osan, south of Seoul, and immediately drove to Samsung's nearby factory, the largest semiconductor plant in the world.

U.S. President Joe Biden visits a Samsung Semiconductor factory in Pyeongtaek
Samsung employees are displayed on screens as they gesture during U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to a semiconductor factory at the Samsung Electronics Pyeongtaek Campus in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on May 20, 2022.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Joe Biden's first stop on his inaugural trip to Asia as U.S. president on Friday was a massive Samsung Electronics 005930.KS semiconductor plant, underscoring a message of economic security with an eye on China.

Biden landed at the U.S. air base in Osan, south of Seoul, and immediately drove to Samsung's nearby factory, the largest semiconductor plant in the world. There he greeted South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a relative newcomer to politics, for the first time in person.

In remarks at the plant, Biden said the future would be written in the Indo-Pacific and now was the time for the United States and like-minded partners to invest in each other.

The two leaders toured the plant, which the White House called a model for a new $17 billion factory that Samsung plans to build in Taylor, Texas.

"This plant represents the close bonds that exist between our two countries," Biden said, noting that the chips are a critical national security priority.

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Advanced chips for functions such as mobile, 5G, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence, have become a focal point of competition with China and concerns over global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Yoon said Biden's visit to the plant highlighted how the decades-old U.S.-South Korea alliance was growing and becoming more comprehensive through cooperation on microchips.

He also urged Biden to provide incentives for South Korean and U.S. businesses to invest in each other's countries.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee was excused from attending an accounting fraud trial hearing on Friday in order to host the U.S. president's tour.

Countering China's presence in the region is a key Biden theme on the trip, but South Korea is likely to strike a cautious tone in public on the topic given Beijing is Seoul's top trading partner.

South Korea is expected to be among the inaugural members of Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which will be announced during the trip to set standards on labor, the environment and supply chains.

Asked about Beijing's opposition to the IPEF, Yoon told reporters on Friday that joining the framework does not have to conflict with South Korea's economic ties with China.

"There is no need to see it as a zero-sum," he said.

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Hyundai Motor Co has been working on plans to build a new electric-vehicle manufacturing plant in the United States, and an announcement could coincide with Biden's visit.

Biden and Yoon will also be faced with the weighty issue of North Korea. Leader Kim Jong Un abandoned a freeze on intercontinental ballistic missile testing and appears poised to resume testing of nuclear bombs, perhaps while Biden is in the region.

(Additional reporting by Josh Smith, Hyonhee Shin and Joori Roh in Seoul; editing by Heather Timmons, Cynthia Osterman, Tomasz Janowski and Hugh Lawson.)

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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