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Sunday, July 21, 2024

G7 summit, bilateral meetings highlight Yoon’s diplomatic super week

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, center right, speaks at a meeting with a visiting Japanese business delegation at the Yongsan presidential office in central Seoul on Monday. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, center right, speaks at a meeting with a visiting Japanese business delegation at the Yongsan presidential office in central Seoul on Monday. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]

President Yoon Suk Yeol will take part in a flurry of diplomatic exchanges this week, including a trip to Hiroshima for the Group of 7 (G7) Summit and meetings with the leaders of Canada, Germany and the European Union.

Beginning his diplomatic super week, Yoon received a Japanese delegation from the Japan-Korea Economic Association, led by Mikio Sasaki, chairman of the board of Mitsubishi Corporation, at the Yongsan presidential office in central Seoul on Monday afternoon.

Yoon asked for businesspeople of Korea and Japan to contribute to speeding along bilateral cooperation, according to Lee Do-woon, presidential spokesman, in a statement.

Yoon noted that “complementary mutual cooperation” is possible with Korean companies’ outstanding manufacturing technology and Japanese companies’ strong competitiveness in materials and equipment, calling for the two countries to work together to build stable supply chains in high-tech industries such as semiconductors, batteries and electric vehicles.

Sasaki said that speaking on behalf of the business community he is “extremely glad” that the two countries have resumed shuttle diplomacy, according to Lee.

Yoon also noted that the “exchange and participation of future generations is more important than anything else.”

In landmark rulings in 2018, the Korean Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies — Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — to individually compensate victims of forced labor during World War II. Japan protested the rulings.

In March, Yoon announced a plan to compensate the forced labor victims through a Korea-funded foundation without clear contributions from Japanese companies, and some victims and civic groups have protested a third-party compensation method.

Korea and Japan’s main business lobby groups also agreed to establish a “future partnership fund” as a part of the broader solution to the forced labor compensation issue.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make an official three-day visit to Korea on Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Yoon and Trudeau will hold a bilateral summit, joint press conference and official dinner on Wednesday, which the presidential office called an opportunity to share core universal values like freedom, democracy and rule of law. The two sides are expected to produce a joint statement on the theme of “Stronger together for the next 60 years” and discuss issues including North Korean human rights, strengthening cooperation on economy and critical minerals and expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

This marks the first visit by a Canadian prime minister to Seoul in nine years, and Trudeau was invited to Korea after Yoon’s visit to Canada in September 2022.

On Friday, Yoon, accompanied by first lady Kim Keon-hee, will make a three-day trip to Japan to attend the three-day G7 Summit in Hiroshima.

On the sidelines of the G7 gathering, Yoon will be reunited with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who visited Seoul earlier in May, and U.S. President Joe Biden, whom he met in Washington last month during a state visit, for a trilateral summit.

The three-way summit, likely to be held on Sunday, comes six months after the leaders’ trilateral meeting held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 13, 2022, on the sidelines of Asean-related meetings.

South Korea was one of eight guest countries invited by the host country Japan to attend the G7 leaders’ expanded meeting, alongside Australia, Brazil, Comoros, the Cook Islands, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Korea’s selection as a G7-invited country this year will serve as an opportunity to confirm our status as a global partner for safeguarding the rules-based international order and responding to global challenges,” Kim Tae-hyo, principal deputy national security adviser, said during a press briefing Sunday. “It is part of a trend seen recently of strengthened relations with key allies, such as the United States and Japan, and an expansion of bilateral diplomacy, which has built trust, to the multilateral diplomacy venue.”

The trilateral summit could be an opportunity to discuss “strategic cooperation plans to upgrade South Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation to the next level in response to common challenges such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, regional supply chain instability and the energy crisis,” added Kim.

The three leaders are expected in their upcoming meeting to check on the implementation process of an agreement reached at the Phnom Penh summit to share North Korean missile warning information in real-time.

This marks the fourth time a Korean leader has attended the G7 summit. Yoon could also meet with other foreign leaders on the sidelines of this summit, which will focus on global agendas, including food, climate, energy, health and development.

Yoon is also scheduled to visit the monument for Korean atomic bomb victims at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with Kishida during his visit to Japan, which will mark the first time the two countries’ leaders will make such a trip.

In March, Yoon visited Tokyo for a bilateral summit as a step to normalize relations soured by historical disputes and a trade spat, and Kishida returned the trip over May 7 and 8 in a resumption of so-called shuttle diplomacy between the two countries’ leaders for the first time in 12 years.

On Sunday, immediately after returning to Korea, Yoon will hold a summit followed by a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Seoul. The two sides are expected to discuss plans to stabilize supply chains and strengthen economic security.

On Monday, Yoon will hold a summit and official dinner with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

This comes as Korea and the EU also celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, and the two sides are expected to expand cooperation in green partnerships, including on environment and climate issues, and in the health and digital sectors.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]