Yoon departs for U.S. for NATO summit with focus on Russia-N. Korea ties

July 8, 2024

President Yoon Suk Yeol embarked on a trip to the United States on Monday to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Washington, where he will address concerns over deepening defense cooperation between North Korea and Russia.

Yoon will visit Washington from Wednesday and Thursday to meet with NATO leaders for discussions on the ongoing war in Ukraine and enhancing cooperation between the transatlantic security alliance and the Indo-Pacific region.

South Korea was invited to the NATO summit for the third consecutive year as one of four Indo-Pacific partners, dubbed IP4, which also includes Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

“We will send a strong message regarding the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, and discuss ways to enhance cooperation among NATO allies and IP4,” Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo said in a briefing Friday.

Stakes are high for this year’s summit as South Korea has said it would consider sending weapons to Ukraine in a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of a mutual defense treaty with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit last month.

On Wednesday, Yoon will have a series of bilateral talks with his counterparts from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Norway as well as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Possible bilateral summits with the U.S. and Japan as well as a trilateral one have yet to be arranged.

Later Wednesday, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee will attend a welcome dinner hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House.

On Thursday, Yoon is scheduled to join a session of NATO allies and partners and hold a four-way meeting with leaders from Indo-Pacific partner nations to discuss security cooperation.

Yoon also plans to speak at a NATO public forum, an event co-hosted by NATO and five think tanks from Europe and the U.S.

Ahead of the summit, Yoon will stop in Hawaii on Monday and Tuesday for a security briefing at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and a meeting with Korean residents on the island.

“His visit to the Indo-Pacific Command will demonstrate the strong alliance between South Korea and the U.S., and provide an opportunity to elevate the bilateral cooperation for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kim said.

The U.S.-led joint maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific Exercise, has been under way in Hawaii since late June, involving 29 countries, including South Korea.