WASHINGTON — President Biden will host President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea for a state visit in April, an invitation that signals the country’s importance in the administration’s efforts to counter threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s rise.
Mr. Yoon, who is scheduled to travel to Washington on April 26 with his wife, Kim Keon Hee, is only the second leader Mr. Biden has invited for a state visit, which comes complete with the regalia of a state dinner. The first state visit of the Biden administration was with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a trip that reaffirmed America’s oldest alliance.
For all of the tools at an American president’s disposal, a state visit — which usually consists of a daylong diplomatic obstacle course followed by a lavish dinner — allows the White House to celebrate ties with its closest allies using pageantry and tradition.
The fact that Mr. Yoon received the second invitation of the Biden presidency speaks to the degree of cooperation Mr. Biden expects on issues involving North Korea and China. The president traveled to Seoul shortly after Mr. Yoon’s inauguration last year in a visit that the White House said was meant to assure Mr. Yoon that the United States was committed to countering North Korean military threats.
During that visit, the leaders agreed to reinstate joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, a decades-long show of cooperation that was suspended during the Trump administration. (Former President Donald J. Trump said the drills were too costly.)
The Biden Presidency
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- Cybersecurity Strategy: The Biden administration issued a new strategy that urged more mandates on the firms that control most of the nation’s digital infrastructure and an expanded government role to disrupt hackers.
- Medal of Honor: The president awarded the Medal of Honor to Col. Paris Davis, one of the first Black officers in the Special Forces to be nominated — and then overlooked — for the honor.
- Warrantless Surveillance Law: The administration urged Congress to renew a controversial warrantless surveillance law, emphasizing that security officials use it for a broad range of foreign policy and national security goals.
A conservative former prosecutor, Mr. Yoon, 62, was narrowly elected to the presidency last March. He has been openly critical of his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who arranged high-stakes summits between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.
“I will pursue predictability, and South Korea will take a more clear position with respect to U.S.-China relations,” he said in an interview with The New York Times last September.
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South Korea has also stepped up its military arms production as the United States and other nations find their stockpiles depleted from assisting Ukraine during the yearlong Russian invasion.
The U.S.-South Korea partnership goes beyond military strategy. Seoul has invested billions in American clean-energy and chip-manufacturing efforts, including a $22 billion investment announced by the SK Group conglomerate in July.
And after Mr. Yoon’s election, South Korea joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a 14-nation collective seen as a bulwark against China in the race to secure global supply chains. Mr. Yoon also agreed to attend preliminary talks for a technology alliance known as “Chip 4” with the United States, Japan and Taiwan.
In a statement, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said that the visit would “highlight the importance and enduring strength of the ironclad U.S.-ROK alliance as well as the United States’ unwavering commitment to the ROK,” using shorthand for South Korea. “The presidents will discuss our shared resolve to deepen and broaden our political, economic, security and people-to-people ties.”
Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon have met several times in recent months. In November, when Mr. Biden was on a swing through Cambodia and Indonesia, he met with Mr. Yoon in Phnom Penh, promising “the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities” to deter North Korean threats, according to a White House readout. In September, the two met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, again promising to assure close cooperation in countering North Korea.