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

LONDON (AP) — The leaders of Britain and South Korea will seek to strengthen trade and defense ties between their countries during a state visit to the U.K. 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’s also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak focused on trade, technology and defense. The two countries will officially launch talks on an “upgraded” free trade agreement to replace their current deal, which largely replicates the arrangements the U.K. had before it left the European Union.

Britain has launched trade talks with several countries since leaving the EU in 2020, though it has finalized deals only with Australia and New Zealand. The U.K. also has 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. Britain 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 the supply of the key computer components. Many of the advanced chips are produced in Taiwan, and the coronavirus pandemic and an increasingly assertive China have heightened concerns about future supply.

The two leaders are also set to boost defense cooperation, including joint naval patrols to enforce U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

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