[Meanwhile] A trip Macron style or Kishida style?

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[Meanwhile] A trip Macron style or Kishida style?

The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Large tents with heaters were erected in the lawn of the White House in Washington last month to welcome some 400 guests invited to the banquet with French President Emmanuel Macron. The venue was decorated with red, blue and white flowers — the colors of the French flag — and French wine glasses were placed on the tables.

France was in a bad mood because its submarine construction contract with Australia fell apart after the U.S. decided to assist Australia with a nuclear submarine — and because European cars are taking a hit under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

U.S. President Biden spoke with President Macron for two hours in his office and praised him for being “not just the leader of France” but “one of the leaders of Europe.” Biden said Macron is “very, very commanding in Europe.”

Perhaps because of the friendly conversation, Macron’s mood changed. While no conclusion was made, he did not mention the IRA further and even spoke for Biden when a French reporter asked a sharp question against him at the joint press conference.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Washington. It was a working-level visit without his wife accompanying, and he only had a 60-minute meeting with President Biden and a 54-minute business lunch. When I asked a Japanese correspondent I met at the White House if it was too short, he replied, “It must have been because there was little disagreement.”

In fact, President Biden said during the meeting that it would be harder to find where they had disagreements, showing off their close alliance. Japan claims it actually gained everything it can in a short time. The U.S. fully supports Japan’s new defense strategy for counter-attack capabilities and reaffirmed its promise to defend Japan by all means necessary, including nuclear weapons.

The presidential office said it will push for President Yoon Suk-yeol’s visit to the U.S. to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. alliance this year. In Washington, there are talks that Yoon is seeking a state visit like French President Macron did. The presidential office also wants to push for a speech to the joint session of the Congress, which the former president did not do.

From Korea’s perspective, there are a number of pending issues on which difference in stances cannot be resolved easily, such as the independent nuclear armaments Yoon mentioned recently, as well as the IRA. Also, it is hard for Korea to blindly keep up with the U.S. stance to check on China, as Japan does.

What kind of a U.S. visit does Korea need, Macron style or Kishida style? Of course, it would be best to get both treatment and practical interest. The time has come for Korea to think about where to focus its diplomatic ability.
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