June 13, 2022 12:12
President Yoon Suk-yeol will attend a NATO summit in Madrid on June 29 and 30, his first overseas trip as president.
It will be the first time that a Korean president is attending a NATO summit since the military alliance was created in 1949.
Yoon will take part in a multilateral session with the leaders of 30 member countries and hold one-on-one meetings with the heads of major European nations, the presidential office said.
NATO was formed to put up a collective defense against the Soviet Union but survived the fall of the iron curtain. Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year after the former Soviet republic attempted to join NATO.
The upcoming summit is expected to focus on forming a consolidated anti-Russian front, and Korea and other non-member Australia, Japan and New Zealand have been invited to join its efforts.
The four non-member states are the U.S.' key allies in Asia and the Pacific. China has already warned that NATO coming to Asia-Pacific would "stir up conflict."
There are also cautious expectations of a possible Korea-Japan summit on the sidelines of the NATO meeting. The last summit between the fractious neighbors was in December 2019, when then-President Moon Jae-in met with Japanese Prime minister Shinzo Abe during a trilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Chengdu.
The presidential office is in talks with Japan about the prospects of a meeting between Yoon and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper cited multiple Korean government sources saying that they would prefer a formal rather than informal meeting.
Diplomatic sources said a meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers in Tokyo around the middle of this month is also on the cards.
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