South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to the U.S. on April 26 and his summit with U.S. President Joe Biden have been officially scheduled. President Joe Biden has agreed to receive Yoon in the form of a state visit, the highest level of hospitality bestowed for the second time after French President Emmanuel Macron. Seoul and Tokyo are also coordinating to arrange Yoon’s visit to Japan to hold a summit within this month. President Yoon reportedly plans to visit Japan by forming a large delegation of economic leaders.
South Korean President’s state visit to the U.S. is set to take place for the first time in 12 years since 2011. The decision for the upcoming state visit has been made by taking into consideration the symbolic significance of the 70th anniversary of the South Korea-U.S. alliance this year, but it is also a testament to Washington’s commitment to using Yoon’s visit as an opportunity to develop their bilateral alliance drastically to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat and the supply chain crisis. The upcoming visit has also been themed ‘alliance of action.’ If Yoon’s visit to Japan actually takes place, it means the restart of shuttle diplomacy between Seoul and Tokyo for the first time in 12 years. Former President Moon Jae-in visited Japan four years ago, but that visit was meant for his attendance at the G20 summit.
If Yoon visits Japan before the U.S. and attends the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan in April, the trilateral cooperation system between the three countries will be cemented further. With suspicions prevalent over the credibility of Washington’s pledge on deterrence to counter Pyongyang’s advancement of its nuclear weapons and missiles, the three-way cooperation should become a watershed event for South Korea to strengthen bilateral security cooperation while verifying Washington’s genuine commitment to nuclear deterrence.
It is fair to say the real success of Yoon’s visit to Japan and the U.S. depends on the economy more than anything. The South Korea-U.S. alliance has already expanded to one of economic and technology alliances that goes way beyond security. The Washington Post reported Yoon’s planned visit to the U.S. by citing a Washington official, who said, “Investments worth billions of dollars by Samsung, SK, and Hyundai Motor has played a pivotal role.” The economy has also been at the center of South Korea-Japan relations since the two neighbors opened diplomatic relations in 1963. The South Korean presidential office said President Yoon’s schedule in Tokyo includes Yoon and Japanese leader’s meeting with business leaders of their countries.
Entrepreneurs joining President Yoon’s economic entourage should be treated as principal guests rather than nominal guests. President Yoon should not hesitate to speak on behalf of the South Korean business community. President Macron, the first foreign leader on a state visit for President Biden, directly criticized Washington for its discrimination against foreign products, calling it “exorbitantly offensive.” For one thing, Yoon’s primary responsibility as “Frist salesperson for the Republic of Korea’ is to ensure Korean companies will not suffer disadvantages due to Washington’s ‘America First’ legislation, including the Semiconductor Science Act.