Biden Heads for First Presidential Trip to Asia with Semiconductor Alliance in Focus

President Joe Biden on course of his first presidential trip to South Korea and Japan, where he’s set Friday to visit a Samsung Electronics Co.’s semiconductor complex as he seeks to bolster supply chains that reduce reliance on China.

Biden will meet with regional leaders in a bid to firm up support for his plans to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and counter security threats posed by China and North Korea, which may conduct its first nuclear test since 2017 with Biden nearby.

Biden’s trip to the Samsung facility underscores the emphasis he’s placed on strengthening semiconductor alliances among the world’s largest chip making countries to try to ease shortages that have dragged on the global economy. The complex in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, houses the some of biggest chip production lines in the world and makes a wide range of products from memory chips to logic chips for Qualcomm Inc. and other companies.

Samsung is the third largest global memory chip producer and controls just less than 20% of outsourced chips for tech clients. South Korea’s largest company has been expanding its facilities at home and in the US to keep up with soaring demand.

The Biden administration has been pushing Congress to approve a broad China competition bill that includes $52 billion in funding for domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing. The president has recently gotten personally engaged in urging Congress to act.

“Pass the damn bill and send it to me,” Biden said earlier this month. “If we do, it’s going to help bring down prices, bring home jobs, and power America’s manufacturing comeback.”

Samsung announced new investment plans in the US late last year. The company chose Texas in a $17 billion plan as the site of an advanced chip plant set to break ground this year, with a target to kick off operations in the second half of 2024.