Pelosi arrives in S. Korea, but no in-person meeting with Yoon on horizon

Posted on : 2022-08-04 17:14 KST Modified on : 2022-08-04 17:14 KST
The House speaker’s visit coincided with the president’s vacation period, but some observers say that considerations of the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing appear to have factored into Yoon’s decision not to meet with her
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gives an address after meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Aug. 3 at Tsai’s presidential office. (Yonhap News)
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gives an address after meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Aug. 3 at Tsai’s presidential office. (Yonhap News)

The South Korean presidential office commented Wednesday on US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, stressing that Seoul supports “maintaining close communication on various issues with the countries in the region, with the attitude that it is important to have regional peace and stability based on dialogue and cooperation.”

The office also said there would not be a meeting between Pelosi and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is currently on vacation. Pelosi was scheduled to proceed from Taiwan to South Korea, arriving on Wednesday evening for a two-day visit that included a stop at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom.

“We look forward to seeing Speaker Pelosi’s travels in East Asia finishing up smoothly as scheduled,” a key official said in a briefing held that day at the presidential office in Yongsan.

Remarking that afternoon on Pelosi’s South Korea visit, the same official said, “We, of course, welcome her visit to South Korea.”

“We hope to see many results from the discussions between the South Korean and US speakers [scheduled for Thursday],” they added. The remarks came in response to a question about the presidential office’s position on Pelosi’s visit happening at a time of mounting tensions after her visit to Taiwan fanned conflict between the US and China.

The presidential office said Pelosi was not scheduled to meet with Yoon Suk-yeol during her visit. When asked about this, the same official said, “No meeting was ever scheduled between Speaker Pelosi and President Yoon because her schedule in South Korea overlapped with the president’s holiday [from Aug. 1 to 5].”

They also explained that no separate meetings had been scheduled with senior officials in the Office of National Security either.

Yoon is currently off work, resting at his home in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood. In addition to his holiday schedule, considerations of the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing in the wake of Pelosi’s Taiwan visit also appear to have factored into his decision not to meet with her.

An official with the ruling People Power Party who is acquainted with the situation in the presidential office explained, “It’s awkward [for Yoon] to meet with Speaker Pelosi at a time when the US and China are flexing their muscles like this.”

The presidential office however stated Thursday that Yoon was scheduled to speak to Pelosi over the phone that afternoon.

Pelosi’s official counterpart during her South Korea visit is National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo. The two of them were scheduled to meet on Thursday morning for a roughly 50-minute talk on issues including security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation, and the climate crisis, after which they would be issuing a joint statement to the press.

Pelosi was also scheduled to visit Panmunjom afterward.

“Speaker Pelosi will be visiting the JSA,” a South Korean military official confirmed in a telephone conversation with the Hankyoreh. Her visit appeared intended to send a message of warning and restraint to Pyongyang at a time when observers are predicting a seventh North Korean nuclear test is imminent.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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