Yoon Suk-yeol off to NATO meeting in Madrid
President Yoon Suk-yeol departed Monday afternoon for a five-day trip to Spain, his first overseas trip in office.
Yoon will attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday and also hold a series of bilateral talks on the sidelines.
Korea is not a member of NATO but was invited as an Asia-Pacific partner with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Yoon is the first Korean president to be invited to a NATO summit. He is accompanied by first lady Kim Keon-hee, who will attend events for spouses of NATO leaders. It will be their overseas debut after Yoon took office on May 10.
Yoon has 14 diplomatic events scheduled during the trip, including nine bilateral talks with leaders from countries including Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and the Czech Republic, mainly focusing on ways to expand economic cooperation, according to the presidential office Sunday. Yoon will promote Korea's nuclear reactors, semiconductors and renewable energy industries.
Yoon will also meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Yoon is scheduled to attend a trilateral summit Wednesday with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The last Korea-Japan-U.S. summit took place four years and nine months ago.
A bilateral summit between Yoon and Kishida, however, is not expected. Japan is set to hold an upper house election next month and that was considered a reason for Tokyo's reluctance to agree to a summit. The two leaders are not even expected to have a so-called “pull-aside” meeting, or informal talks.
A previously anticipated four-way summit with the leaders of Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand is also not expected to take place because of scheduling conflicts and a lack of an agenda, according to the presidential office.
In a joint session of leaders of NATO members and partner countries, Yoon is expected to deliver a speech that will call for the international community's support for the denuclearization of North Korea.
Yoon will attend a gala dinner hosted by Spanish King Felipe and Queen Letizia on Tuesday, a dinner with Korean residents in Spain on Wednesday and a luncheon meeting with Spanish businesspeople Thursday.
The first lady will also attend the dinner reception hosted by the Spanish king and queen and the dinner meeting with Korean residents. She is also due to attend sessions for the leaders' spouses and as well as a guided tour of the royal palace in Madrid.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]