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President Biden held a press conference for state visit from South Korea's president


The day after formally announcing a bid for a second term, President Biden took questions from reporters for the first time in more than a month. The occasion was a state visit from South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. In between a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn this morning and a state dinner this evening, the two leaders agreed on a deal to send an American nuclear-armed submarine to visit South Korea. But given how long it's been since Biden held a press conference, there were questions on other topics as well. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow was in the Rose Garden with Biden and Yoon and joins us now. Hey, Scott.


CHANG: All right. So let's start with that reelection campaign. What exactly did Biden say about that?

DETROW: He was asked about something that polls show is one of his biggest weaknesses with voters, and that's his age. Biden's 80 now. He'll be 86 at the end of his second term. And poll after poll shows a lot of voters, even voters who really like Joe Biden, are hesitant to send him back to the White House given his age. In the past, Biden has responded by saying, just watch me. He expanded on that today more than I've heard before. And he said it's a fair concern.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: One of the things that people are going to find out is going to see a race, and they're going to judge whether or not I have it or don't have it. I respect them taking a hard look at it. I'd take a hard look at it as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run.

DETROW: Biden also said he doesn't even like to say the numbers of his age. He seemed to be referencing comments he's made before about feeling younger than he is. You also heard Biden get to the fact that it's a race and a choice. And it's fair to say it would probably be less of an issue if he's running against Donald Trump, who's about to turn 77. And on Trump, Biden talked about what he sees as the danger that Trump poses to the country, compared the men's records. It seems like Biden is ready for a possible rematch election next year.

CHANG: OK. And I understand that around the same time that Biden began speaking, the House of Representatives began considering the Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling. And, you know, just to recap, Republicans want to cut spending and scale back some of Biden's signature programs in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. So I'm wondering, did Biden give any indication that he is willing to deal on that front?

DETROW: Yeah. He reiterated what he has said over and over, that he's not going to negotiate on this.

CHANG: OK, then.

DETROW: Reporters asked Biden about this as he was walking back to the Oval Office. He paused, he turned around and he said this.


BIDEN: I'm happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That's not negotiable.

DETROW: So as we've been talking about that date where the U.S. runs out of money to pay its bills is getting closer and closer. Biden says he's not budging. It's clear here that he is trying to make House Republicans seem to be the irresponsible party for trying to set conditions for paying off the nation's bills.

CHANG: All right.

Well, now let's just get to the main business of the press conference - Biden's meeting with President Yoon and their shared concerns about a nuclear threat from North Korea. What exactly did they have to say?

DETROW: Yeah. This has understandably been a high-profile issue in South Korea, and Biden tried to reassure allies that they have the U.S.' support and its military backing.


BIDEN: Look. Nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partisans - or partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action.

DETROW: And the context here is that North Korea has been pretty aggressive lately about testing missiles, so today the two leaders agreed on stronger cooperation on nuclear deterrence against North Korea. And one key part of that will be sending a nuclear-armed American sub to visit South Korea. That would be the first time since the 1980s that that happened.

CHANG: Wow. That is NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you, Scott.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.