US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to the heavily fortified inter-Korean border area reflects strong deterrence against North Korea, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said yesterday.
After infuriating China over her trip to Taiwan, Pelosi yesterday met South Korean political leaders in Seoul, but avoided making direct public comments on relations with Beijing and Taipei that could further increase regional tensions.
Pelosi, the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, late on Wednesday arrived with a US congressional delegation in South Korea, a key US ally where about 28,500 US troops are deployed. Earlier during her Asia tour, she visited Singapore and Malaysia. Pelosi is scheduled to travel to Japan next.
She yesterday met South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo and other senior members of parliament.
After their hour-long meeting, Pelosi spoke about the bilateral alliance, forged in blood during the 1950-1953 Korean War, and legislative efforts to boost ties, but did not directly mention her Taiwan visit or the Chinese protests.
“We also come to say to you that a friendship, [the] relationship that began from urgency and security many years ago, has become the warmest of friendships,” Pelosi told a joint news conference with Kim. “We want to advance security, economy and governance in an inter-parliamentary way.”
Neither Pelosi nor Kim took questions from journalists.
Kim said he and Pelosi shared concerns about North Korea’s increasing nuclear threat.
He said the two agreed to support their governments’ push for denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula based on strong deterrence against North Korea and diplomacy.
Pelosi’s delegation later spoke by telephone with Yoon on the alliance, foreign policy and other issues.
Yoon is on vacation this week, but critics accuse him of intentionally shunning a face-to-face meeting with Pelosi in consideration of ties with China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner.
Yoon’s office said it had reviewed national interests and that Yoon’s vacation plan had already been set up when Pelosi’s side about two weeks ago contacted his office about a possible meeting.
During the phone conversation, Pelosi and other members of her delegation did not bring up the Taiwan issue, and Yoon also did not raise the matter, Yoon’s office said.
In the past few years, South Korea has been struggling to strike a balance between the US and China as their rivalry has deepened.
Yoon, a conservative, took office in May with a vow to boost South Korea’s military alliance with Washington and take a tougher line on North Korean provocations.
Later yesterday, Pelosi was to visit a border area with North Korea that is jointly controlled by the US-led UN Command and North Korea, South Korean officials said.
If that visit occurs, Pelosi would be the highest-level US official to go to the Joint Security Area since then-US president Donald Trump visited in 2019 for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Any statement critical of North Korea by Pelosi is certain to draw a furious response.
On Wednesday, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed the US over her Taiwan trip, saying that “the current situation clearly shows that the impudent interference of the US in internal affairs of other countries [is] the root cause of harassed peace and security in the region.”
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