South Korea’s president-elect’s team visits US with eye on Biden’s first summit | world news

SEOUL (Reuters) – A team of foreign and security policy advisers to South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are visiting the United States this week, seeking to arrange an early summit with President Joe Biden and to coordinate efforts to rein in North Korea. intensified weapons testing, sources said on Monday.

Conservative outsider Yoon won the March 9 election and is struggling to hammer out his foreign policy agenda ahead of his May 10 swearing-in, as tensions mount following North Korea’s launch of the month last of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Yoon had pledged to build defense capabilities to counter threats from the North, including purchasing an additional new US THAAD missile system, but left the door open for dialogue.

A seven-person delegation led by Park Jin, a four-term People’s Power Party (PPP) lawmaker from Yoon, and former Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong arrived in Washington for talks with American officials, politicians and scholars. Park and Cho are presented as strong candidates for Foreign Minister in Yoon’s cabinet.

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Top of their agenda is a push for a potential summit in Seoul between Yoon and Biden as early as May when Biden travels to Japan for a meeting of the Quad group, which also includes Australia and India, two Sources familiar with the team’s plan and involved in Yoon’s foreign policy deliberations told Reuters.

The date for the Quad conference has yet to be announced, but local elections in Australia and Japan, scheduled for May and July respectively, complicate Biden’s earlier plans for a May trip, one of the sources said. .

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is due to call a federal election by May 21, but has not yet set a date. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also faces a crucial election for the upper house of parliament in July, as a victory could ensure several election-free and politically stable years to pursue his political goals.

“I understand that the Japanese side had requested the Quad summit to be held at the end of April so that they would have enough time to prepare for the elections,” the source said on condition of anonymity due to diplomatic sensitivity.

“But the best time for us is somewhere between those two elections, maybe towards the end of May, and Washington would also like to talk to the new president rather than be here before he takes office.”

An early summit has become all the more important due to North Korea’s missile launch on March 24 – its first full ICBM test since 2017 – which prompted Yoon to relaunch an abandoned plan to send envoys to Washington, said indicated the source.

There are growing signs that Pyongyang could soon test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017, after leader Kim Jong Un threatened to break his self-imposed moratorium on ICBMs and nuclear testing.

But when asked if the team would discuss Yoon’s commitment to buy a THAAD battery, the source said it couldn’t be ruled out but was “not a priority” and that they had “no reason to rush”.

Park, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, told reporters his group would explore a “concrete roadmap” for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Park said a Yoon-Biden summit would “naturally” happen if Biden travels to Asia as planned, but declined to elaborate.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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