The Bloomberg News reported U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to host South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit in April. It said President Biden is planning to “host President Yoon for a White House state dinner,” adding that the “timing remains fluid while the current plan is for the visit to take place in late April.” The U.S. media have mentioned President Yoon’s state visit for the first time since Seoul and Washington began to make overtures over the time and format of the summit meeting in Washington this spring.
The summit meeting of the two allies is more meaningful as the year 2023 marks the twin 70th anniversaries of the ROK-US Alliance and the armistice treaty of the Korean War, which makes its format and content even more important. President Yoon and President Biden met two times in May and November last year in Seoul and Cambodia (for the ASEAN Summit Meeting). Still, back then, the framework for foreign policies, such as the Korean Indo-Pacific strategy, had yet to be established.
State visits are on the highest level among the five types of visits, including official working visits, official visits, working visits, and private visits. A foreign head of state invited on a state visit is treated with the highest honor, from a welcome ceremony at the airport to the inspection of honor guard and the welcome and farewell ceremonies by high-ranking officials. If proceeded as planned, Mr. Yoon’s will have made the first state visit to the U.S. in 12 years as a South Korean president. If President Yoon addresses the joint meeting of the U.S. Congress during his visit, it will serve as a good opportunity to reaffirm the steadfast solidarity of the two allies in and out of the country.
The two leaders of the state will face a tough agenda. Some of the most urgent issues at hand include strengthening U.S. deterrence against North Korean nuclear threats and the expansion of cooperation between Seoul and Washington. The tripartite cooperation between the U.S., Korea, and Japan is also included in the agenda to tackle the historical dispute between Seoul and Tokyo, such as the reparations for the forced labor by Japan. Economic and security agendas are copious too, such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Creating Helpful Incentive to Produce Semiconductors Act (CHIPS Act), as well as securing supply chains amid the increasingly fierce tech competition between the US and China.
Most of all, South Korea and the U.S. should find a way to upgrade their alliance and lay a new foundation of coordination for the next seven decades. Now we must lay out a new blueprint for the future where the two allies can build on the solid foundation of security they’ve forged since the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953 and evolve into a new form of alliance harnessing economic and technological cooperation.
The government must help expedite President Yoon’s state visit to set the ground for stronger bilateral cooperation. A thorough preparation must be carried out so that the visit can bear fruit like a nuclear power corporation. It will take meticulous preparation to yield a substantial result befitting the dignity of the occasion.