|Rep. Park Jin of the main opposition People Power Party, head of the U.S.-South Korea policy consultation delegation sent by South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, is seen posing a photo with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during a meeting at the White House on April 5, 2022./ Source: South Korean delegation|
AsiaToday reporter Lee Wook-jae
The first summit between South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to take place in the first half of this year. The summit between the two leaders is becoming tangible as the U.S.-South Korea policy consultation delegation sent by Yoon preemptively visited the White House to discuss about it.
The U.S.-South Korean policy consultation delegation, led by Rep. Park Jin of the main opposition People Power Party, visited the White House and met with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan for some 40 minutes and delivered a personal letter for Biden from Yoon. During the meeting, the two sides agreed to hold an early summit after Yoon taking office. “We exchanged views on the need to arrange a Yoon-Biden summit at an early date after the inauguration of the new government,” Park said.
As the two sides agreed to hold a summit at an early date, discussion about holding a summit is expected to take place immediately after the new South Korean government is inaugurated on May 10.
The most likely scenario for a potential summit between Yoon and Biden is when Biden visits Japan during the first half of the year for a meeting of the U.S-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), which also includes Australia and India. After meeting with the Quad group, Biden may visit Seoul to meet Yoon. Traditionally, former U.S. presidents had visited both South Korea and Japan during their tour to East Asia.
In this case, Yoon would be able to meet Biden at the earliest date after taking office. It took 51 days for President Moon Jae-in to hold a summit with the United States, while Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak needed 71 and 54 days, respectively, to hold a Seoul-Washington summit.
However, the Quad may not take place in May, leaving the schedule for the Korea-U.S. summit somewhat flexible.
First of all, Australia has not yet confirmed a date for the general election in May. It needs to hold a general election before May 21, but has not yet to announce an election date. Depending on the internal political situation in Australia, the Quad could be pushed back to June. At the end of June, Biden may not be able to visit Japan as he is scheduled to attend the G7 summit on June 26-28 as well as the NATO summit on June 29-30. This means that a Yoon-Biden summit can be held at an early date if the Quad is held between the end of May and mid-June at the latest. Some claim that the Quad will be held in April, but many view it unlikely, considering the Australian general election and the international situation caused by the Ukraine crisis.
If a Yoon-Biden summit is delayed further to July, Yoon should consider visiting Washington after taking office, since House of Councilors elections is scheduled to be held in Japan in July. Currently, Yoon has no plan to visit the U.S.
Yoon’s spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said the president-elect hopes for an early summit with Biden, although there is currently no plan for him to visit the U.S.