Yoon announces summit with Biden, Kishida in Cambodia
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Thursday he will hold a trilateral summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Cambodia on Sunday.
“A Korea-U.S.-Japan summit has been finalized, and several bilateral talks have been confirmed or are under discussion,” Yoon told reporters at the Yongsan presidential office Thursday.
A White House official told Reuters Wednesday the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States will meet in Cambodia on Sunday and are expected to address the ongoing threat posed by North Korea.
Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, was quoted as saying that the leaders will “continue enhancing trilateral cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific, particularly in regard to our joint efforts to address the ongoing threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” referring to the North’s official name.
On Friday, Yoon will kick off a six-day trip to take part in meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia and a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Indonesia.
During his three-day trip to Phnom Penh, Yoon will attend a South Korea-Asean summit on Friday, an Asean Plus Three summit involving South Korea, Japan and China on Saturday and an East Asia Summit (EAS) Sunday. Later on Sunday, he will head to Bali to attend the G20 summit.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday that a trilateral summit was scheduled and that arrangements are underway for Kishida to hold separate talks with the leaders of the United States and South Korea on the sidelines of meetings in Southeast Asia.
It reported that Kishida hopes to strengthen Japan’s alliance with the United States and improve relations with South Korea. The two countries have struggled to resolve disputes related to historical issues.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to attend the Asean meetings.
This trip could be Yoon’s first encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to attend the G20 summit in Bali. Xi secured a historic third-term as China’s leader last month.
The presidents of South Korea and China last held a summit in December 2019.
A presidential official said later Thursday that Yoon is also scheduled to meet bilaterally with Biden.
The Southeast Asian tour will be Yoon’s third overseas trip since he took office.
Yoon held his first summit with Biden in Seoul shortly after his inauguration in May.
On June 29, Yoon, Biden and Kishida held a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.
Yoon and Biden had brief encounters during their overlapping trips to Britain for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the UN General Assembly in New York in September. However, a second bilateral summit didn’t come about. Yoon and Kishida held their first bilateral talks in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Recognizing the country is still recovering from the Itaewon tragedy on Oct. 29 that killed 156 people, Yoon said Thursday he decided to proceed with his diplomatic tour taking into consideration that “economic activities and interests of our people are at stake.
“At the Asean summits, I will also announce the principles of Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy based on freedom, peace and prosperity, and also announce an initiative for solidarity between Korea and Asean,” Yoon told reporters.
Noting that Asean is a region with high trade volume, Yoon said that “tens of thousands of Korean companies are investing in this region and facing stiff economic competition.”
He pointed out that bilateral talks on the sidelines of multilateral conferences can be planned in advance, or come up suddenly, and that “schedules can be changed due to various circumstances.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump skipped Asean-related summits since 2018, and Biden’s attendance this time could demonstrate Washington’s renewed commitment to the region and its Indo-Pacific strategy, seen as a means of containing China.
Biden’s upcoming trip to Southeast Asia will “highlight the enduring commitment to the rules-based international order, including in the South China Sea, as well as talk about the importance of peace and stability throughout the region, including, of course, across the Taiwan Strait,” a senior White House official told reporters Tuesday.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]