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Report says Yoon could make state visit to U.S. in spring

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands after bilateral talks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Nov. 13, 2022, on the sidelines of Asean meetings. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands after bilateral talks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Nov. 13, 2022, on the sidelines of Asean meetings. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]

U.S. President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to host President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state dinner amid anticipation that the Korean leader could make a visit to Washington as early as this spring.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that preparations for a state visit by Yoon are underway and that Biden is planning to hold a state dinner at the White House, citing sources familiar with the matter, possibly for late April.

It added that preparations for the visit and state dinner were underway, but the timing remained fluid.

If Yoon makes a state visit to the United States in April, he could become Biden’s second state guest.

Last December, French President Emmanuel Macron became Biden’s first state guest since the U.S. president took office in January 2021, recognizing France as the United States’ oldest ally. Biden also hosted his first state dinner for the French presidential couple, and Macron and his first lady stayed at the historic Blair House, across the street from the White House, during their visit.

A state visit is the highest-level visit by a foreign leader, typically involving more pomp and ceremony, including an official welcoming event with an honor guard and a state dinner.

Yoon’s presidential office said in a statement Thursday responding to the report on a state visit, “It is not the official position of the U.S. government.”

However, Seoul officials have said diplomatic discussions have been underway since last month to discuss such a visit to take place within the first half of this year.

Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Feb. 3, and other high-level Foreign Ministry officials have had consecutive meetings with their State Department counterparts this month, where discussions of a summit would have taken place.

Presidential officials say “nothing has been decided” yet as the two sides are still discussing the details.

A state visit will have symbolic meaning as this year commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. alliance.

The last state visit to the United States of a Korean leader was some 12 years ago by former President Lee Myung-bak in October 2011 upon the invitation of U.S. President Barack Obama.

There is also interest in whether Yoon will address the U.S. Congress, as Lee did.

Yoon’s visit to Washington could be an opportunity to discuss a slew of issues of mutual interest, including North Korean denuclearization, strengthening the alliance, coordinating Indo-Pacific strategies and discussing supply chain stability and economic security. Seoul could also reiterate its concerns over the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Biden visited Seoul for a first summit with Yoon on May 21, and the two countries agreed to upgrade ties to a global comprehensive strategic alliance. The summit came 11 days after Yoon took office, unusually fast for a first meeting between the U.S. president and a new Korean leader.

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