President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday embarked for New York to attend the UN General Assembly and advocate for Busan’s bid to host World Expo 2030.
Yoon departed from Seoul Air Base on Air Force One at around 9 a.m., accompanied by the first lady, Kim Keon Hee.
The delegation that showed up at the airport included Minister of Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min, Chief of Staff Kim Dae-ki, Senior Secretary for Political Affairs Lee Jin-bok, People Power Party leader Kim Gi-hyeon, People Power Party floor leader Yun Jae-ok, Foreign Ministry First Vice Minister Chang Ho-jin and U.S. Ambassador to Korea Phillip Goldberg.
According to the Yongsan presidential office earlier, President Yoon is scheduled to address UN member countries on Wednesday, where he will express concern about countries engaging in military cooperation with North Korea.
His trip follows a recent summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The details of the meeting between Kim and Putin have not been disclosed.
This was the first overseas trip that Kim had embarked on since North Korea closed its borders in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The six-day trip was also the longest he had been outside of North Korea since taking power.
During his visit to Russia, Kim inspected military and technology facilities starting with the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s leading spaceport, in the far eastern Amur region.
Kim also toured the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where Russia’s advanced fighter jets are manufactured, and Knevichi airfield near Vladivostok. He also boarded the Udaloy-class destroy Marshal Shaposhnikov.
One of the weapons the North Korean leader inspected was the hypersonic Kinzhal missile, believed to be capable of neutralizing the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system.
The air-launched missile was first used during the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
South Korean media have speculated that the North Korean leader is seeking the hypersonic missile, which can be launched from the MiG-31 fighter jet.
Russia has denied breaking any UN sanctions imposed against North Korea, saying no military agreements were signed.
However, North Korean state-run media reported discussions between Kim and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on strengthening bilateral military cooperation and exchanges.
President Yoon, in an interview with AP, condemned military cooperation between North Korea and Russia, labeling it as “illegal and unjust” and in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international sanctions.
China, a key member of the UN Security Council and historically close to North Korea, has made no official statement regarding the summit.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Russia for strategic security consultations through Thursday.
Meanwhile, the White House confirmed that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had candid talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi over the weekend, covering topics such as Taiwan and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The two sides expressed commitment to maintaining a strategic channel of communication and pursuing high-level engagement and consultations in key areas to improve U.S.-China relations.
President Yoon is also using the trip to actively promote Busan as a prime candidate for hosting the World Expo in 2030.
Busan is competing against Rome and Riyadh.
The decision will be put to a vote at the Bureau International des Exposition in November, and Yoon plans to engage with the leaders of at least 30 countries in support of Busan’s bid.
The first lady, Kim Keon Hee, has been seen with a keychain bearing the slogan “Busan is ready,” underscoring their dedication to the cause.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]