South Korean Pres Travels to Hawaii to Honor Fallen Service Members, Biden Doesn't Show


Perhaps President Joe Biden’s handlers were worried that, if the president attended the first-ever joint repatriation ceremony involving the remains of fallen U.S. and South Korean troops identified from Korean War remains, he might check his watch.

But wouldn’t it be worth the risk? Especially when South Korea sent its own president?

On Wednesday, according to Hawaii Public Radio, the remains of 68 South Korean soldiers and six presumed U.S. service members who died in the conflict were repatriated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Meanwhile, South Korea had been in possession of the U.S. remains since the conflict, which began 71 years ago this past June.

The remains of the South Korean soldiers were being kept by the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency until the ceremony on Wednesday. According to Hawaii News Now, there have been previous repatriation ceremonies, the last being in June of 2020. However, as the Accounting Agency noted in a news release, this was the first time a joint repatriation service had taken place.

This was important enough to South Korea that President Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook were in attendance. As former Trump administration White House press secretary and Newsmax host Sean Spicer pointed out, however, Biden was nowhere to be seen.

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It is important to note that there was at least one U.S. representative at the ceremony — Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. According to Hawaii Public Radio, Aquilino attempted to compensate for the commander-in-chief’s no-show by stating what Biden should have said: The “Korean War brought our two nations side by side to fight for and defend the values embodied in the ideals of freedom.”

However, the absence of any other serious administration presence on Wednesday was problematic inasmuch as a) South Korea is a major military ally and b) this is a big deal to them.

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It’s not just that Moon showed up at the event. To be fair, he was in the United States for the U.N. General Assembly. However, that’s also of note because he said that while he was there, he “proposed that the relevant parties gather together and proclaim an end to the Korean War, creating a new chapter of reconciliation and cooperation.”

While there hasn’t been armed conflict in the Korean War since 1953, it’s technically still ongoing. Without a peace treaty, both North and South Korea remain nominal co-belligerents.

During his keynote speech at the U.N. General Assembly, UPI noted, Moon said an official declaration ending the war would start an “irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace.”

Ending the war would also require some level of accord between Seoul and Pyongyang. Given that North Korea is also a major U.S. adversary, it would behoove us to play a significant role in that process.

Then again, you may have heard the Biden administration hasn’t been in the business of keeping our allies happy recently.

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For the first time in our nation’s history, France — our oldest geopolitical ally — recalled its ambassador to the United States last week over the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal. That pact will have the United States and the United Kingdom supplying nuclear subs to Australia, upending a deal the country had with France.

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to the New York Post. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

The French embassy also canceled a gala last Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” the embassy said in a statement.

Whether or not the AUKUS deal represents a better outcome for Australia and global security, the way it was done both alienated and humiliated French officials.

As much as we might like to joke about our Gallic friends being the kind of Renault-driving, baguette-eating populace that would vote for a man like Emmanuel Macron, they still remain our friends. Particularly in the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal, that wasn’t the optics we needed.

Biden’s failure to even show up to the repatriation ceremony at Pearl Harbor doesn’t exactly rise to that level of alienation, but it still speaks to where the administration’s head is at. South Korea is one of our most valuable allies, sitting on the border with a China-backed failed state with nuclear weapons.

Rest assured, when Moon Jae-in arrived in Hawaii and didn’t see the U.S. president in attendance, he took notice. You can rest assured that Kim Jong-un did, too.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture