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Trump says he plans to invite S. Korea to G7 summit in September

US President Donald Trump (AP-Yonhap)
US President Donald Trump (AP-Yonhap)

WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he plans to invite South Korea to a Group of Seven summit in September.

South Korea is not a member of the G7, which comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, but the country has drawn widespread praise from around the world for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We want Australia. We want India. We want South Korea. And what do we have? That's a nice group of countries right there," he told reporters on Air Force One, according to a pool report. He also listed Russia.

Trump said he feels the G7 doesn't properly represent what is happening in the world and that with the additions it could become a "G10 or G11."

"It's a very outdated group of countries," he said of the G7, adding that he has "roughly" discussed the new idea with the leaders of the four countries he would like to add.

Trump, who previously suggested hosting the summit at Camp David in June, said the meeting could be postponed until the weekend before or after the UN General Assembly in New York, currently scheduled to begin Sept. 15.

"Maybe I'll do it after the election," he mused, referring to the US presidential election in November. "I think a good time would be before the election."

White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said that the meeting will bring together traditional US allies to talk about how to deal with the future of China, the pool report said.

In Seoul, a foreign ministry official said that the country has not yet received an invitation.

"As this year's chair, the US can invite South Korea, but we've not yet received an invitation or heard from the US about it," the official said.

The proposed invitation underlines South Korea's raised international profile, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and could lead to the forming of a new G11 group that could give Seoul diplomatic opportunities to take the lead on global issues.

However, such an expansion could present complications for South Korea's diplomacy, if the US tries to use the enlarged group to rally support for its campaign to increase pressure on China, amid intensifying tensions between the two superpowers.

Trump has publicly blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 103,000 lives in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated as China has moved to crack down on civil liberties in Hong Kong. On Friday, Trump announced that his administration would begin to roll back privileges Hong Kong has enjoyed with Washington.

Trump has spoken favorably of President Moon Jae-in, calling him "a friend of mine."

In recent weeks he has often claimed that Moon praised the US for doing well on testing people for COVID-19. Trump has also liked to boast that the US was conducting more tests than South Korea, where an aggressive testing regime was widely reported to have contained the disease.

Trump and Moon have worked together to engage North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in diplomatic talks over dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The negotiations have all but stopped since a second summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February 2019 ended abruptly due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the US. (Yonhap)