President Biden pledged Friday to bring the U.S.-South Korea relationship to “greater heights” as he kicked off an East Asia swing at a semiconductor manufacturer owned by Samsung, a company investing billions in the U.S.
Mr. Biden said Samsung’s construction of a new plant in Texas is emblematic of a technology alliance that will help both countries remain competitive in an ever-changing world. He also said it will help their nations become less reliant on countries that “don’t share our values.”
“These little chips, only a few nanometers thick, are the key to propelling us into humanity’s technological development,” Mr. Biden said after a tour of Samsung’s Semiconductor Pyeongtaek Campus. “This is an auspicious start to my visit because it’s emblematic of our future cooperation and innovation that our nations can and must build together.”
Newly inaugurated South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said chips will be essential for self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence, meaning they are key to any nation’s competitiveness.
“I believe that semiconductors are national security assets for our future,” Mr. Yoon said, adding he appreciates Mr. Biden providing incentives for South Korean companies in the U.S.
It was Mr. Biden’s first stop after landing at Osan Air Base for an Asia trip designed to shore up ties with South Korea and Japan — key Asian allies who also rely on China for trade.
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“I’m honored by the welcome you’ve given me to your beautiful country,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Yoon after a warm round of applause at the company.
Mr. Biden will also convey a collective regional message that the faltering Russian invasion should give China pause over its own saber-rattling in the Pacific, including toward Taiwan.
The U.S. leader has placed an emphasis on semiconductor production on American soil as a way to compete with non-allies and remain resilient in the face of supply chain shocks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine has further spotlighted the need to secure our critical supply chains for our economic and national security are not dependent on countries that don’t show our values,” Mr. Biden said.
Samsung is a major South Korean player in the U.S., employing more than 20,000 Americans in their research and development centers, manufacturing facilities, and regional offices located in Texas and California.
The company announced in 2021 that it would build a new semiconductor plant in the U.S., bringing its total investment in the U.S. to $47 billion. It settled on a site in Taylor, Texas, that should be operable by 2024.
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The Samsung campus in South Korea was filled with large gray modernist buildings painted with red, blue and yellow rectangles also decorated to resemble microchips. A man wearing full protective equipment showed Mr. Biden how semiconductor parts are made, a highly technical process, and how parts get around the facility on a type of railway along the ceiling.
Reporters traveling with the president had to wear blue booties and white-striped lab coats labeled “VIP” and walked through an air tunnel to decontaminate themselves.