Biden: US will aid Palestinians in Gaza after bombings

His remarks came during a joint news conference with the South Korean president following their first meeting at the White House.

President Joe Biden and South Korea President Moon Jae-in hold a joint news conference after a day of meetings at the White House [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden said he told Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinians in Jerusalem must be respected and humanitarian aid must be delivered to Gaza as part of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

“It is essential that the Palestinians on the West Bank be secure,” Biden said he told Netanyahu when they spoke on May 20.

Biden said the US is “insisting that Israeli citizens, whether they be Arab or Jew, be treated equally”.

Referencing “intercommunal fighting” in Jerusalem, “that has to come to an end,” Biden said he told Netanyahu.

Biden told Netanyahu that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must “be recognised as the leader of the Palestinian people, which he is”.

The US president’s remarks came during a joint news conference at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in which the two pledged to work together to engage constructively with North Korea. Biden’s comments are the most specific he has been about the message he had given to Netanyahu during the latest conflict.

Biden praised the Israeli prime minister for keeping his word to honour the ceasefire negotiated by Egypt with Hamas. And the US president emphasised there has been “no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all”.

Biden said his administration would  “put together a major package with other nations who share our view to rebuild the homes” destroyed in Gaza without “providing Hamas the opportunity to rebuild their weapon system”.

Diplomatic engagement with North Korea

Separately, Biden and South Korea’s Moon said the US and South Korea would seek to engage North Korea diplomatically over restraining its nuclear weapons programme.

“Our two nations share a willingness to engage diplomatically with the DPRK (North Korea), to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions as we move toward our ultimate goal of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Biden said in a joint media conference with Moon in Washington.

Biden said he was naming the acting US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim, a Korean American, as the US’s special envoy to Pyongyang.

Biden administration officials have been reviewing US policy on North Korea’s nuclear programme. Moon had said he would use the visit to advocate that the US seek engagement with North Korea.

“We are under no illusions how difficult this is,” Biden said. “The objective is an incredibly difficult objective.”

President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in participate in an expanded bilateral meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2021 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

North Korea has rejected unilateral disarmament and given no indication that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad support for the concept of universal denuclearisation.

Biden and Moon greeted each other warmly appeared to enjoy their time together on Friday.

“President Moon and I, and our teams have had good meetings, addressing our shared agenda, in a private meeting to which my staff kept coming out and saying ‘You’re over time. You’re over time.’ And that was totally fine,” Biden said.

“I enjoyed our meetings so much that it caused us to move everything back. I look forward to continuing our discussions here today,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

Moon and Biden joined together to award the Medal of Honor to 94-year-old Korean War veteran Ralph Puckett, a retired US Army colonel, for his valour in a 1950 battle for a strategic hill. He was fighting Chinese troops in North Korea.

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and President Joe Biden pose for a picture with Korean War veteran, Army Colonel Ralph Puckett during a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The US fought a war against North Korean and Chinese troops on the Korean Peninsula from 1950 to 1953 and continues to maintain 28,000 troops there.

Moon’s visit was the first time a foreign leader had attended a Medal of Honor ceremony, which Biden called a testament to the strength of the US-South Korean alliance.

Moon said Puckett was an example of the strength of the alliance, which he called “a linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies