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Yoon likely to meet Biden virtually first before meeting in person late May

Korea-US summit predicted to take place in Seoul; alliance could be raised to next level

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden (Yonhap)
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden (Yonhap)


President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is likely to meet US President Joe Biden at the global COVID-19 summit virtually first, and the two are expected to meet face-to-face around May 20 in Seoul to strengthen their alliance against North Korea and China.

The US will co-host the second global COVID-19 summit on May 12, a virtual gathering intended to build momentum for vaccine donations, attended by leaders of major countries to jointly respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

This summit follows the first Global COVID-19 Summit convened by the US on Sep. 22, 2021. A total of 20 countries are expected to attend the second summit.

Korea is highly likely to participate in the videoconference. President Moon Jae-in attended the first summit via a pre-recorded video, stressing the nation’s willingness to cooperate with the international community.

If Yoon’s participation is confirmed, he will face Biden for the first time at an international meeting within just two to three days after taking office, albeit virtually. Yoon takes office on May 10.

Yoon and Biden are reported to meet face-to-face during Biden’s expected stop in South Korea before Biden heads to Japan for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) summit on May 24. The Quad is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US. Biden’s visit to Korea is likely to be on May 21 or 22, and the two countries are currently fine-tuning the schedule.

As Yoon meets with Biden less than two weeks after taking office, it will mark the earliest Korea-US summit for a South Korean president. It is also the first time in 29 years that the first Korea-US summit since the inauguration of a new Korean government is held in Seoul, not in the US. Former President Kim Young-sam and Bill Clinton met in Seoul in July 1993.

At the first summit between Yoon and Biden, the focus will be on how the comprehensive strategic alliance between Seoul and Washington will be strengthened. Yoon has emphasized the need to raise the level of the Korea-US alliance to the next level since he was a candidate.

Yoon recently sent a policy consultation delegation led by Foreign Minister nominee Park Jin to the US. Upon arrival, Park said they agreed with the US to upgrade the alliance to a higher level as a comprehensive strategic alliance.

Biden is likely to ask Yoon to participate in measures to contain China in areas such as supply chains. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a regional economic cooperation initiative promoted by the US to check China, is also expected to be on the agenda.

Analysts see Biden’s visit to Korea as having the effect of demonstrating strong deterrence against North Korea through the Korea-US alliance. The North has crossed the “red line” through more than 10 armed demonstrations, including the test launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles this year.

A delegation from the US is reported to visit South Korea this week to prepare for the first Korea-US summit. The delegation is expected to coordinate detailed logistics, such as the venue and detailed schedule of the talks.

However, the Yoon administration remains cautious about Biden’s visit to Seoul next month. “There is nothing we can confirm about the schedule of the Korea-US summit,” Yoon’s office said in a statement.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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