By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) — President Yoon Suk Yeol departed for Washington on Monday for a six-day state visit expected to strengthen the allies’ response to North Korea’s nuclear threat and other challenges in a symbolic year marking the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
Under the theme “alliance in action, toward the future,” the visit comes at a time of growing concern over North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile capabilities and questions about the credibility of Washington’s “extended deterrence” commitment to Seoul.
A joint statement on measures to enhance extended deterrence — or the U.S. commitment to mobilizing the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally — is expected to be a highlight of Yoon’s summit with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday.
The summit will be preceded by an official arrival ceremony and followed by a state dinner hosted by Biden and first lady Jill Biden. Yoon will be joined by first lady Kim Keon Hee.
“The two leaders will spend a lot of time together over the course of many events … celebrate the achievements of the South Korea-U.S. alliance accumulated over 70 years, and exchange in-depth views on the alliance’s way forward,” Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters last week.
“We expect the contents and breadth of our global comprehensive strategic alliance to be further expanded at the upcoming talks, based on the trust and friendship the leaders have built until now,” he said.
The summit will mark the sixth meeting between Yoon and Biden, following those in Seoul last May and then in Madrid, London, New York and Phnom Penh.
The visit also comes as the allies are seeking to bolster cooperation on economic security in areas such as semiconductors and batteries, with South Korean businesses eager to win concessions in the implementation of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and Chips and Science Act.
Yoon is being accompanied by a 122-person business delegation made up of chiefs of conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung, and the heads of six major business associations, including the Federation of Korean Industries and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others.
Yoon is the first South Korean president since Lee Myung-bak in 2011 to pay a state visit to the United States and the second foreign leader after French President Emmanuel Macron to pay such a visit under the Biden administration.
On Tuesday, Yoon will attend a ceremony where U.S. advanced technology firms will announce plans to invest in South Korea, and a business roundtable involving some 30 CEOs of major companies from both countries, including Samsung, SK, Hyundai, Qualcomm, Lam Research and Boeing.
The president will also visit the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center just outside Washington the same day to discuss space cooperation between the two countries and meet with Korean scientists working for NASA.
The 70th anniversary of the alliance will be a theme that runs through the visit, with Yoon and first lady Kim set to join Biden and first lady Jill on a visit to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on Tuesday.
A video honoring notable U.S. and South Korean veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War began airing in New York’s Times Square last Thursday and will be shown periodically through May 3.
On Thursday, Yoon will deliver an address before a joint session of Congress and look back on the past 70 years of an alliance rooted in the shared values of liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights, address the challenges the two countries face and present a blueprint for the alliance’s way forward.
He will then have lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken before moving to an undisclosed location to receive a briefing from U.S. military leaders.
Also on Thursday, he will attend a global video content leadership forum to present a vision for cultural solidarity and cooperation between the two countries, and meet with officials from American mass media companies, such as Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal Media, Sony Pictures, The Walt Disney Company and Netflix.
Later that day, Yoon will travel to Boston and hold discussions on Friday with digital and bio scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He will also deliver an address at Harvard University the same day.
“President Yoon will look back on the U.S.-led expansion of economic and political freedoms over the past 200 years and share his thoughts on the two sides of freedom in the digital era we live in,” Kim Tae-hyo said.
Yoon will wrap up his trip and depart for Seoul on Saturday.
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