Yoon arrives in San Francisco to attend APEC summit

November 15, 2023

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where he is expected to call for stronger solidarity, promote trade liberalization, and discuss a response to military cooperation between North Korea and Russia.

This year’s gathering, which brings together the leaders of the 21 APEC member economies, will be held under the theme, “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All.” Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee will be here for a three-day stay.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee disembark the presidential plane after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 15, 2023. (Yonhap)
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee disembark the presidential plane after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 15, 2023. (Yonhap)

During what will be his first attendance at an APEC summit, Yoon plans to address a leaders’ session on Thursday and stress South Korea’s commitment to contributing to the transition to clean energy and overcoming the climate crisis, according to Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo.

The following day he plans to attend the second session, or the leaders’ retreat, and talk about the need for APEC members to work together to restore the multilateral trading system, strengthen regional supply chains and establish a digital moral code.

“I will urge the member economies to work together in the spirit of stronger solidarity and cooperation to advance trade and investment liberalization, innovation and digitalization as well as inclusive and sustainable growth,” Yoon said in a written interview with the Associated Press (AP) published Tuesday.

Yoon will also attend a summit of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) on the sidelines of the APEC gathering on Thursday.

IPEF is widely regarded as a U.S. initiative to counter China’s growing influence in the region and the meeting’s outcome will draw attention in the wake of a planned summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco the previous day.

Whether Yoon and Xi hold their own bilateral summit will also be watched closely, as the South Korean president has stressed his administration’s commitment to increasing economic and people-to-people ties between the two countries through “mutually beneficial” cooperation.

If a Yoon-Xi summit materializes, it will be their second meeting after meeting for the first time on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November.

Also planned is a discussion led by Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Stanford University on Friday, during which the leaders are expected to share ways South Korea and Japan, and the two countries together with the United States, can cooperate in the cutting-edge technology sector.

Yoon and Kishida also plan to hold a separate bilateral summit Thursday, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.

Other bilateral summit arrangements are currently in the works.

Yoon said in the AP interview that he plans to raise the issue of North Korea-Russia military cooperation in his meetings with other leaders.

“I will emphasize that the illegal cooperation between Russia and North Korea is a serious threat to security not only on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, but also in the world, and discuss ways to cooperate,” he said in the interview.

In San Francisco, Yoon will also host a meeting with Korean residents, attend an APEC CEOs summit and meet with young Korean leaders working in the cutting-edge technology field.

“President Yoon’s attendance at the APEC meeting will be an occasion to enhance the status of the Republic of Korea, which fulfills its responsibilities and contributions in terms of regional and global issues, and to deepen cooperation with members of APEC, which is the world’s largest regional cooperation body,” Kim, the deputy national security adviser, told reporters last week, referring to South Korea by its formal name.