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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan finalize plan to hold trilateral summit on sidelines of NATO summit

16:43 June 26, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with First Lady's schedule in last two paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol will hold a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Spain this week on the sidelines of a NATO summit, his office said Sunday.

The trilateral summit, set for Wednesday in Madrid, will be the first such gathering in four years and nine months since the last meeting was held in September 2017 on the margins of a U.N. General Assembly. No trilateral meeting has since taken place amid badly frayed relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

The relations between the two countries have shown signs of a thaw since Yoon took office as South Korea's president with a pledge to improve ties with the neighboring nation, spurring speculation that Yoon and Kishida could hold a one-on-one summit in Spain.

But no such meeting, whether it be an official bilateral summit or a pull-aside meeting, is likely to take place, officials said. A four-way summit between South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand is also unlikely to take place, officials said.

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a luncheon meeting with a group of Korean War veterans at a Seoul hotel on June 24, 2022, one day ahead of the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 conflict. (Yonhap)

Yoon plans to depart for Spain on Monday for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit set for Wednesday and Thursday. The trip will mark his debut on the multilateral diplomatic stage since taking office last month.

South Korea is not a member of the military alliance but has been invited as a partner nation, along with other countries that include Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Yoon is expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with leaders from Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and the Czech Republic to discuss ways to expand economic cooperation, according to his office.

First lady Kim Keon-hee plans to accompany Yoon on the upcoming trip.

She plans to attend sessions for the leaders' spouses and other events, beginning with a dinner reception to be hosted by Spanish King Felipe and Queen Letizia on Tuesday. She will also join a guided tour to the royal palace and a dinner meeting with Korean residents in Spain the following day, officials said.

President Yoon Suk-yeol (L) and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, walk past a cenotaph bearing the names of war dead at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul on June 17, 2022, ahead of a luncheon meeting with people of national merit and their families. (Yonhap)


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