Biden will meet key US allies Japan and South Korea following a mid-term push

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

CNN- President Joe Biden landed in Cambodia on Saturday still enjoying the results of a midterm election that has produced an unexpected boost at home during his two years in office.

The scale of the challenge abroad, and the effort to turn 21 months of intensive engagement into tangible results for the US alliance, will test the value of that political capital on the international stage even while votes are still being counted.

Biden is set for a series of tough challenges in his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, key allies in the Indo-Pacific region rocked by an increasingly aggressive North Korea. A assertive and confrontational China, which has long been a central issue for the Biden administration, also looms large.

Biden will also meet with Kishida and Yoon individually before their trilateral meeting.

Biden's stop at the Asian nations summit comes as advisers see a clear push to buck historical and political trends in the midterm elections. While Biden's message won't change dramatically, the weight behind it is decidedly stronger after American voters deliver a message that surpasses even the most optimistic White House officials' expectations.

A trio of world leaders previously met on the sidelines of a Nato summit in June, pledging to increase cooperation – a complex task for a key US ally with historically steeped ties.

But the cooperation is crucial because recently, increased aggression from North Korea will be the top three leaders' concern Sunday. North Korea has conducted 32 days of missile launches this year, according to a CNN tally of ballistic and cruise missiles. Instead, it only conducted four tests in 2020, and eight tests in 2021.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan suggested Saturday that the meeting would not lead to any specific outcomes, telling reporters aboard Air Force One that leaders would "be able to address broader security issues in the Indo-Pacific and also, in particular, threats that generated by North Korea. missile and nuclear programs.”

The trilateral came one day before a high-stakes one-on-one meeting for Biden with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office. The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali.

Speaking to reporters Sunday morning, Biden said he entered the meeting with Xi in a relatively strong position.

“I know I am coming stronger,” he said, noting that he knew Xi well and there were “very few misunderstandings” between the two leaders.

"We're just figuring out what the red lines are and what's most important to each of us in the next few years," Biden said.

Biden, Yoon, and Fumio will also discuss Monday's meeting during the trilateral meeting.

“One thing President Biden definitely wants to do with our closest allies is preview what he wants to do, and also ask the leaders of (South Korea) and Japan, 'What do you want me to raise? What do you want me to do?'” Sullivan said, adding that “it will be topical but it will not be a trilateral main event.”

Early Sunday, Biden will attend the East Asia Summit, building on Saturday's appearance at the ASEAN summit aimed at enhancing US-Indo-Pacific relations. He then meets up with Fumio and Yoon before leaving for Bali.

Part of this trip, a senior administration official told reporters by phone earlier this week, reflects the "increased engagement with ASEAN and with Southeast Asia" during the Biden administration.

Biden, the official added, will "lay out our vision to maintain a higher pace of engagement and try also to address issues important to ASEAN in the way they seek," in line with an ongoing theme during Biden's presidency of building alliances in strategic competition with China. .

Among the main topics of discussion this weekend in Cambodia, the official said, was the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, where the military seized power in last year's coup.

World leaders will discuss "efforts to promote respect for human rights, rule of law and good governance, a rules-based international order, and also to address the ongoing crisis in Burma."

Biden arrived in Phnom Penh on Saturday, held bilateral meetings with ASEAN chairmen and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and attended the ASEAN-US summit.

“This is my third trip, my third summit – my second in person, and it is a testament to the important place the United States has in our relationship with ASEAN and our commitment to ASEAN centrality. ASEAN is at the core of my government's Indo-Pacific strategy. And we continue to strengthen our commitment to working with an empowered and united ASEAN,” Biden said in a brief opening speech as the summit began.

On Friday, Biden made a three-hour stop in Sharm El Shiekh, Egypt, where he attended the COP27 climate summit and met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

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