South Korean president to visit Hawaii

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (June 25, 2024) Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol gives remarks aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in Busan, Republic of Korea, June 25, 2024. Theodore Roosevelt is in the Republic of Korea for a scheduled port visit, supporting operational readiness and ROK-U.S. alliance. Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Nine and is currently conducting routine operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Haro Gonzalez)

South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol will be on Oahu this week to meet with top U.S. military officials before flying to Washington, D.C., to deliver a keynote address at the 2024 NATO Public Forum.

Today, he will meet at Camp Smith with military leaders at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.


It will be the first visit to Camp Smith by a South Korean president since the Pa­ci­fic Command was renamed Indo-Pacific Command in 2018. A senior South Korean official with knowledge of Yoon’s trip said “there is an understanding that the U.S. defense concept, in tandem with the upgrading of the ROK-U.S. alliance, has expanded to cover broader issues, including some pertaining to the Indian Ocean region.”

In 2022 the South Korean government released its own new Indo-Pacific strategy, which asserts its role as a “global pivotal state” and calls for greater engagement with countries around the region with an emphasis on Southeast Asia and going as far west as Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline.

Yoon’s visit also comes as tensions in the Pacific have gripped the region as China spars with neighbors over maritime territorial rights and as Russia and North Korea have bolstered military ties amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and heightened anxiety around missile tests and training exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean official said “in light of North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile threats, and the distinctive cooperation between Russia and North Korea triggered by the war in Ukraine, we have planned this trip to the upcoming NATO Summit to focus on a coherent security concept.”

NATO officials have been cautious in how they discuss their growing interest in the Pacific region. In 2023 there was discussion of setting up a NATO liaison office in Tokyo, but some alliance members like France reportedly expressed concern it could antagonize China, and the proposal was shelved.

When Yoon delivers his keynote at the NATO Public Forum, he will become the first South Korean president to attend the event as a speaker. South Korean officials told the Star-Advertiser that he is also expected to meet with the leaders of the other IP4 countries at the summit.

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