President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart pledged to keep pressure on Russia through sanctions and export controls, and emphasized the destabilizing impact of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on energy markets.
The nations plan to work together to secure energy supply chains, including those of fossil fuels and enriched uranium, according to a joint statement released after Biden met President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul. South Korea continues to import Russian crude oil.
In the statement, Russia’s war was termed “foremost” among threats to the international order.
The “tragedy” brought on by the war must be resolved quickly, Yoon said at a news conference with Biden after the pair’s first in-person meeting. The US leader said he thinks “we’re at an inflection point in world history,” with democracies and autocracies competing for supremacy.
Biden is on his first trip to Asia as president. Yoon, a former prosecutor, was elected president in March and took up his post this month.
“Both leaders affirm that they will ensure the effective implementation of their country’s respective measures to deter further Russian aggression and maintain our commitment to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the statement.
The US has looked to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and has spent recent weeks preparing escalatory punishments.
That effort includes preparations to allow a waiver to expire next week that would effectively block Russian bond payments to US investors. New restrictions would cut off avenues Russia has used to pay coupons, potentially forcing Moscow into its first foreign default in a century.
The administration is also considering plans to impose a price cap on Russian oil through the use of secondary sanctions that would block foreign buyers from doing business with US companies, according to a report in the New York Times.
Russia’s Oil Revenues
The step would help address booming revenues Russia has seen from oil exports that have soared in price since the invasion. While the US and EU have reduced or eliminated Russian energy imports, countries including India and Turkey have increased their purchases.
South Korea has purchased less Russian oil in recent weeks, but remains a significant importer. Seoul did join with the US and other nations in releasing barrels from strategic oil reserves in a bid to stabilize spiking global energy markets.
Biden is also expected to raise the issue of energy purchases with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet in Tokyo next week.
South Korea took the rare step of imposing export controls against Russia over the Ukraine invasion, restricting purchases of items including semiconductors, computers, communications and navigation equipment. Seoul also joined other nations in blocking certain Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.