President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol pause after laying a wreath as they visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, April 25, 2023.InternationalIndiaAfricaWashington got out the red carpet for Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday, with the first leg of the South Korean President’s visit taking him to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center accompanied by Vice Pesident Kamala Harris. However, the supposed Pentagon leak exposing US spying on allies is bound to cast a shadow on the more formal itinerary of the trip.Timed to a symbolic year commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the US-South Korean alliance, specifically, the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol began a six-day official visit to the US on April 25.However, the first state visit to the United States by a South Korean leader in about 12 years comes amid awkwardness triggered by the recent Pentagon leaks, with Washington not skimping on pop and circumstance to contain the damage from apparent spying on allies.Day one of the visit included a tour of the Goddard Space Flight Center in the company of Vice President Kamala Harris, ahead of which the two countries signed a joint statement on cooperation in space communications and navigation. According to the South Korean leader, their joint action, “will serve as a springboard for taking space cooperation between our two allies to the next level of a space alliance.” Earlier in the day, General Motors and South Korea’s Samsung SDI unveiled a deal to construct an electric vehicle battery cell plant in the US, worth $3 billion.© AP Photo / Susan WalshVice President Kamala Harris, right, speaks as South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, listens during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Tuesday, April 25, 2023.Vice President Kamala Harris, right, speaks as South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, listens during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Tuesday, April 25, 2023.The day wrapped up with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Korean War Memorial, where Yoon and his wife were accompanied by US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
However, economic ventures and formalities aside, the US had hinted that “major deliverables” would be announced during the formal leg of the visit on Wednesday, when the South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is to visit the White House to meet with President Joe Biden. The bilateral meeting in the afternoon is to be followed by a joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden, according to the official schedule. Congressional leaders had also invited Yoon Suk Yeol to address a joint meeting of Congress on April 27.“This visit, of course, also comes at a critical moment, as North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities. The two leaders will have a chance to consult closely on that,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.He added that President Biden would, “reinforce and enhance our extended deterrence commitments to South Korea with respect to the threat the DPRK [North Korea] poses.”Indeed, the visit comes as North Korea has been advancing its nuclear weapons program, highlighted by a recent testing of the Hwansong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. Sullivan’s South Korean counterpart, Kim Tae-hyo, ahead of Yoon’s trip expressed urgency in taking steps toward boosting the defensive nuclear umbrella, saying that expectations for extending deterrence have been “great.””There are several things that have been carried out over the past year in terms of information sharing, planning and execution. We need to take steps to organize these things so that it can be easily understood to anyone in one big picture, how this is implemented and developed,” the South Korean adviser was cited as telling reporters.
Pentagon Leaks Fallout
Furthermore, the South Korean and US presidents are also expected discuss the situation in Ukraine, with the recent Pentagon leaks of classified documents revealing that US intelligence spied on allies like Seoul overshadowing the encounter.The conflict in Ukraine has emerged as a controversial matter between the two countries, given South Korea’s reluctance to fall in line with Washington’s intent on continuously funneling weapons to prop up the Kiev regime. A South Korean presidential official last week reportedly said Seoul is not supplying Ukraine with weapons for the sake of stability in relations with Russia. As Yoon arrived in Washington on Tuesday, a South Korean presidential official told reporters that Ukraine may be discussed during the meeting but only as a “global issue.”In a reference to the ‘intelligence leaks’, Yoon, in an interview aired on April 25, said that the recent Pentagon leaks will not impact the “trust” between the United States and South Korea.Leaked highly classified US military documents showed how South Korea was struggling to balance pressure from its Western allies to help Ukraine get military aid with its own policy of staying out of the conflict. The top secret Pentagon files leaked online over recent weeks provided sensitive details on a host of security topics, including on Ukraine, China, and the Middle East, as well as alleged US spying on officials in allied countries.Ever since Moscow started its special military operation in Ukraine last February, Western countries have been supplying Kiev with various types of weapons systems, including air defense missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, tanks, self-propelled artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Moscow has warned Seoul, a major ammunition-producing state, that sending military assistance to Ukraine will negatively impact Russian-South Korean relations.MilitarySouth Korea to Supply US With 500,000 Artillery Shells ‘On Loan’, Reports Say12 April, 07:18 GMT