South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and First Lady Kim Keon-hee left Seoul on Monday for a six-day state visit to the United States. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
Seoul, April 24 (UPI) — South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol left for the United States on Monday for a six-day state visit, with economic and security issues high on the agenda amid growing nuclear threats. North Korea and technological competition with China.
Yoon will meet with US President Joe Biden for a summit and joint press conference on Wednesday, and is expected to address Congress on Thursday during a visit that will commemorate the 1950-1953 era. 70th anniversary of the alliance established at the end of the Korean War.
Seoul and Washington have strengthened defense ties under the Yoon administration, but questions have grown in South Korea about the reliability of the American nuclear umbrella as Pyongyang conducts record weapons tests.
Some members of Yoon’s People Power party have called for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons, a position that has gained public support. According to a poll last week by pollster Realmeter, 56.5% of respondents are in favor of South Korea acquiring its own nuclear arsenal.
The Yoon administration has sought greater input into the planning and implementation of any nuclear response to North Korea, and observers expect a joint statement to be the key outcome of the summit with Biden.
“I am cautiously optimistic that Biden’s session will provide more comprehensive and visible assurances regarding Korea’s input into the planning process regarding North Korea’s nuclear threats,” said Go Myong-hyun, a senior fellow at the Asan Policy Institute. Investigations, UPI said.
Go said Yoon’s visit reflects the shared vision of the current administrations, which extends beyond North Korea to global issues, including an increasingly assertive China and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“This alliance is multifaceted,” he said. “And Yoon signals that he’s like-minded when it comes to the state of the world today.”
Yoon is accompanied by a delegation of 122 business leaders from South Korea’s biggest conglomerates, including executives from Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors, LG Corporation and chip maker SK Hynix.
The visit will focus on trade issues in key areas including semiconductors, batteries and electric vehicles, with South Korean companies looking to win concessions on contentious areas of the US Anti-Inflation Act and the Chip and Science Act.
South Korea is also seeking greater long-term clarity on how to manage Washington’s sweeping technology export controls against China.
Meanwhile, the US wants Seoul to step up its support for Ukraine. South Korea has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine and started supplying Poland with weapons such as tanks and howitzers, but still maintains a policy of not providing direct lethal aid to warring parties.
Yoon’s trip marks the first state visit by a South Korean president since Lee Myung-bak in 2011. and it’s only the second time the Biden administration has suspended a foreign leader.
Other planned events include a joint visit by the first families to the Korean War Memorial in Washington and a state dinner, the White House said in a press release.
Yoon will also travel to Boston on Friday to meet with digital and biotechnology researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to give a speech at Harvard University, his office said. He will return to Seoul on Saturday.