April 29, 2022
SEOUL – South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden will hold their first summit in Seoul on May 21, 11 days after Yoon officially takes office, authorities confirmed on Thursday.
Yoon’s office welcomed the US president’s trip to South Korea, as the US White House confirmed he will travel to South Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24.
“President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol welcomes US President Biden who will visit South Korea on May 20-22. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will hold in-depth talks with President Biden on a wide range of topics, including reinforcing the Korea-US alliance, joint policy efforts in handling North Korea issues, as well as economic security and major international current affairs,” Yoon’s spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said in a statement.
“We anticipate the meeting will provide the grounds for a stronger bilateral comprehensive strategic alliance,” Bae said, adding that Yoon’s office and the presidential transition team would do their best for a successful summit.
The summit, just 10 days after Yoon officially assumes office, will be the earliest a Korea-US summit have ever taken place after a South Korean president’s inauguration, according to the spokesperson.
The White House said the US president will travel to South Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24, “to further deepen ties between the governments, economies and people.”
“This trip will advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s rock-solid commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and to US treaty alliances with the Republic of Korea and Japan,” US White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“The leaders will discuss opportunities to deepen our vital security relationships, enhance economic ties, and expand our close cooperation to deliver practical results.”
After staying in Seoul for three days, Biden will take off to Tokyo for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a US-led regional security forum that includes Australia, India and Japan. He will hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on May 23, and then attend the Quad meeting on May 24, according to reports in Japan.
Biden’s trip will come amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, following North Korean missile launches, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in March.
In their summit, the two leaders are expected to discuss joint efforts to handle North Korea’s missile provocations, as well as a possible underground nuclear test that the reclusive regime appears to be preparing, as shown in satellite imagery.
If Pyongyang carries out a nuclear test, it would be its seventh, coming after the last one in 2017.
Yoon has also expressed intentions to upgrade bilateral relations with the US to a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” and is expected to discuss building a technology alliance amid the restructuring trend of the global supply chain.
The two leaders will also likely exchange views on extended deterrence against North Korea, and revive the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group between the two countries, as it was one of Yoon’s election pledges.
Biden’s trip to Seoul coming prior to Japan is seen as a rare move, as past US presidents often chose Tokyo as the first destination in their first trips to Asia.
Edwin Fuelner, the founder and former president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank, said in a meeting with Yoon on Wednesday that it is very meaningful that South Korea has been chosen as the first destination for the US president’s first trip to Asia.
The current President Moon Jae-in held his first summit with the then US President Donald Trump in 51 days after his inauguration in 2017. Former presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak held theirs with the then US counterparts in 71 days and 54 days, respectively.
While the venue for the summit has not been officially announced, it will reportedly take place at the new presidential office that is being relocated to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan, central Seoul.
The presidential transition committee considered several venues for the summit, including the Ministry of National Defense Convention Center and the National Museum of Korea, as Yoon’s office is in the process of relocating the presidential office from the current location at Cheong Wa Dae in Jongno, central Seoul.
Meanwhile, the US president is also planning to meet with current South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his trip to Seoul.
According to local media reports, a Cheong Wa Dae official said the two governments are currently discussing a meeting between Moon and Biden to show their bilateral trust and respect.
The meeting is being planned following a request from the US side, according to the official.