South Korea’s president will talk about trade, technology and defense on state visit to the UK

LONDON – The leaders of Britain and South Korea will seek to strengthen trade and defense ties between their countries during a state visit to Britain by President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Yoon landed at Stansted Airport near London on Monday. Britain hopes his formal three-day visit will help cement an “Indo-Pacific tilt” in its foreign and trade policy.

During that time, the President will be treated to both royal and diplomatic pomp, including a ceremonial welcome with military honor guards, an opportunity to address Parliament and a state banquet hosted by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.

He is also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak focusing on trade, technology and defence. The two countries will officially begin negotiations on an “upgraded” free trade deal to replace their current deal, which largely replicates the arrangements Britain had before it left the EU.

The UK has opened trade talks with several countries since leaving the EU in 2020, although it has only struck deals with Australia and New Zealand. Britain has also joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, an Asia-Pacific trade bloc that includes Japan and 10 other nations.

Sunak and Yoon are expected to sign an agreement covering cooperation in defense and technology, including artificial intelligence. The UK hosted the first international AI Safety Summit this month, and South Korea intends to hold a follow-up event next year.

Britain also plans to invest in South Korean semiconductor manufacturing as part of international efforts to diversify supply of key computer components. Many of the advanced chips are made in Taiwan, and the coronavirus pandemic and an increasingly assertive China have raised concerns about future supply.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon Hee, arrive at Stansted Airport, Essex, England, Monday, November 20, 2023, for the start of his state visit to the United Kingdom. Credit: AP/Joe Giddens

The two leaders are also set to strengthen defense cooperation, including joint naval patrols to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea.

Sunak said agreements reached during Yoon’s visit would “drive investment, boost trade and build a friendship that not only supports global stability, but protects our interests and stands the test of time.”