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Yoon to attend IPEF meeting in San Francisco

Nov. 12, 2023 - 10:04 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol will attend the meeting of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity in San Francisco on Thursday, Yoon's office confirmed Sunday.

The IPEF meeting will be joined by the leaders of 14 member countries, and is aimed at discussing "concrete plans for cooperation" between member states, according to Yoon's office. Participating countries of the United States-led initiative include Korea, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

This will mark the seventh round of IPEF meetings since the platform's launch by US President Joe Biden in May 2022, in an apparent move to counter China's growing regional economic influence.

The previous meeting was held in October in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Roh Keon-ki, a senior official of Korea's Trade Ministry, served as Seoul's chief negotiator.

All eyes are on whether the upcoming meeting might reach a substantial conclusion, against the backdrop of the growing anticipation for the summit between Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday for the first time in a year. Xi's visit to the US will mark the first one in over six years.

The IPEF members have yet to reach a conclusion over trade, clean economy and anti-corruption -- pillars over which Washington proposed to negotiate with 13 other countries.

In May, an agreement over supply chain resilience between the US and neighboring countries of China was reached. Under the agreement, the 14 countries -- representing about 40 percent of global gross domestic product -- agreed to establish a mechanism for collaboration, an emergency communication channel in times of supply chain disruption, as well as an advisory board to promote labor rights and investment in supply chain-related industries.

The IPEF came into being two years after the China-led trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, was signed in 2020, and five years after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from what was formerly the US-led trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The IPEF meeting will be held alongside the summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member countries, of which China is included.

The presidential office confirmed last week that Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee are to fly to San Francisco to attend the APEC summit on Wednesday and return to Seoul on Saturday. Yoon's visit to San Francisco will be followed by a visit to the United Kingdom upon the invitation of King Charles III and France in the fourth week of November, as well as a state visit to the Netherlands in December.

Yoon's office has yet to confirm whether Yoon's summit with Xi would take place for the first time since November 2022 in Bali, Indonesia during the Group of 20 summit. It was the first summit between Yoon and Xi since Yoon was inaugurated in May 2022.

On Thursday, Seoul's top diplomat Park Jin highlighted Beijing's mediating role in the military cooperation and exchanges between Pyongyang and Moscow during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Park said increasing geopolitical tension in East Asia due to Pyongyang-Moscow deals "undermines Beijing's national interest."