President Yoon, first lady depart on trip for U.K., U.S., Canada
President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee departed for London Sunday to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II as a part of a whirlwind seven-day trip that will also take them to the United States and Canada.
The presidential couple departed on Air Force One from Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Sunday morning in their second overseas trip after visiting Spain in late June to attend a NATO summit in Madrid.
In London, Yoon will visit Westminster Hall, where the Queen has been lying in state since Wednesday, and attend a reception hosted by King Charles III. He will also visit a 1950-53 Korean War memorial to honor British soldiers who fought alongside South Koreans.
On Monday, he will attend the state funeral of the late Queen at Westminster Abbey.
Later that day, Yoon will head to New York, where he will attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. He is set to hold bilateral summits with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines.
On Tuesday, Yoon is scheduled to give his first address to the General Assembly, where he is expected to underscore his vision of expanding global solidarity with nations that share similar values of freedom and rules-based international order.
Yoon is also expected to have a message urging for North Korean denuclearization.
In an interview with the New York Times published Sunday, Yoon said that Seoul and Washington were prepared to bring “a package of all possible means and methods,” including the American nuclear umbrella to prevent a war on the peninsula but also proposed a bright economic future if North Korea chooses to denuclearize.
Yoon also told the New York Times said he hoped to strike a “grand bargain” with Japan over thorny historical issues between the two countries.
After Korea’s National Security Office announced on Thursday that Seoul and Tokyo are expected to hold their first bilateral summit in New York, Japanese media outlets reported that such talks could be very brief, while the Sankei Shimbun reported Sunday, citing Japanese officials, that a summit may not even be held.
When asked about a summit with Yoon, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno in a briefing on Thursday said nothing had been decided on Kishida’s visit to New York, apparently avoiding a direct answer.
Korean presidential officials however said Sunday that there was no change in the plans to hold the bilateral summit, though there could be a fine-tuning of last-minute details.
This will mark Yoon’s first summit with Kishida, whom he met with briefly on the sidelines of the NATO gathering in Madrid, as the two sides are tasked with mending frayed bilateral issues due to historical disputes stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule and a trade spat since 2019. Tokyo especially protested Korea’s top court rulings in 2018 ordering Japanese companies to compensate Korean forced labor victims.
On Thursday, Yoon will make a stop in Toronto, Canada’s financial hub, to meet with AI experts and Korean residents. On Friday, Yoon will hold a summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, the final leg of his tour, and discuss ways to deepen the two countries’ bilateral strategic partnership.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]