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South Korean President Yun Seok-yeol has embarked on a three-day state visit to the UK, seeking to strengthen trade and defence ties between the two countries.

Yoon Seok-yeol received a warm welcome on his arrival at Stansted Airport near London, marking the start of a diplomatic visit aimed at cementing an “Indo-Pacific tilt” in Britain’s foreign and trade policy.

During the visit, Yun will be treated to royal and diplomatic courtesies, including a welcome ceremony by a guard of honour, a speech to Parliament and a state dinner hosted by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.

South Korean President Yun Seok-yeol visits UK to strengthen trade and defence ties

In addition to these ceremonial events, Yun will hold extensive talks with Prime Minister Sunak, focusing on expanding trade, technological cooperation and strengthening defence cooperation.

A key element of the talks will be the official launch of negotiations between the two countries on an “upgraded” free trade agreement. The agreement is intended to replace the existing one, which largely replicates the pre-Brexit arrangements.

Since leaving the EU in 2020, the UK has been actively pursuing trade deals with various countries, but has so far only finalised agreements with Australia and New Zealand. In addition, the UK has joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an Asia-Pacific trade bloc covering Japan and 10 other countries.

Sunak and Yin Yimin are expected to sign an agreement covering defence and technology cooperation, including artificial intelligence. The U.K. recently hosted the first international AI security summit, and South Korea intends to organise a follow-up event next year.

In addition, the UK plans to invest in South Korea’s semiconductor manufacturing industry as part of an international effort to diversify the supply of these vital computer components. Currently, many advanced chips are made in Taiwan, with the coronavirus pandemic and China’s growing self-confidence fuelling concerns about future supply.

The two leaders will also step up defence cooperation, including joint naval patrols, to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

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

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