After his first overseas trip to the US in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic last month, President Moon Jae-in is now heading to Europe with a packed agenda.
The president is scheduled to depart for the UK on Friday to attend the G-7 summit in Cornwall on June 11-13 and then travel on to Austria and Spain to make state visits until next week.
Despite the packed schedule, the size of the delegation has been reduced compared to previous years but this time first lady Kim Jung-sook is accompanying the president. She couldn’t join Moon’s Washington trip due to heightened quarantine measures.
South Korea is participating in this year’s gathering of the seven biggest economies -- the first in-person meeting in two years -- along with other guest nations Australia, India and South Africa. Moon was invited to last year’s G-7 held in the US but the meeting was canceled due to the pandemic.
The president will attend three extended group sessions to discuss health care, economy and climate change, with vaccine partnerships likely topping the agenda.
Three confirmed summit meetings include those with the UK, Australia and EU. Cheong Wa Dae didn’t rule out impromptu meetings or conversations with other heads of state during the three-day stay.
Speculation is also growing about a possible trilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as their gathering comes amid Biden’s push to bolster ties with the Asian allies in response to a more assertive China in the region. Seoul officials said there is no meeting confirmed for now.
After the G-7 concludes, the president is flying to Austria to make a state visit on June 14-15. This is the first time for a South Korean president to make a visit to Austria since the two nations established ties back in 1892.
During the two-day stay, he plans to hold meetings with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz. A luxurious dinner meeting is also planned to be arranged to welcome the presidential couple.
Then, he will make another state visit to Spain on June 15-17, becoming the first foreign leader to visit the country since the COVID-19 pandemic. He will have meetings with Spanish King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and attend business meetings held in Madrid and Barcelona.
After a weeklong trip, Moon is set to return to Korea on June 18.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org