South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol heads to Britain on Monday for a state visit, hoping to boost economic ties and enhance security partnerships to counter North Korea's evolving threats and other regional challenges.
Yoon's four-day trip will be the first state visit hosted by Britain since the coronation of King Charles, and comes as North Korea appears to be making final preparations for another attempt at launching its first spy satellite.
In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Yoon said the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza, coupled with growing Russia-North Korea ties and tensions in the South China Sea, had compelled him to seek "very close security cooperation" with the West.
The president will be met with plenty of pomp and ceremony. Yoon will receive a guard of honour and ride in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace, according to the palace.
He will hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, and adopt an accord on expanding a bilateral partnership.
Yoon has expressed hope for deeper cooperation with Britain on an "array of geopolitical risks" including supply chains and energy security, the Telegraph said. "The two countries have more room to cooperate on the economic front," Yoon's spokesperson Lee Do-woon said, noting bilateral trade was worth $12.1 billion last year, fifth among European countries.
Yoon's visit comes after his return from the APEC summit in San Francisco, where he called for a coordinated response to growing military ties between North Korea and Russia.
From Britain, Yoon will head to France for a visit aimed at bolstering support for South Korea's hosting the 2030 World Expo, his office said.
The expo host is expected to be decided this month by a vote of member states of the International Bureau of Expositions, the expo organising body. Its headquarters is in Paris. (Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi Editing by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)