LONDON (Reuters) -South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for talks on Wednesday and signed an agreement stepping up cooperation in defence, security and technology.
Yoon, on a state visit to London, and Sunak signed a Downing Street Accord which will also involve them working together on enforcing U.N. sanctions on reclusive North Korea.
Ministers launched talks over a new free trade agreement (FTA) and agreed to a partnership on clean energy, while a range of investments have been announced, including plans for wind farm projects in South Korea from offshore wind firm Corio Generation and BP PLC totalling $1.16 billion.
A conservative, Yoon has cited a “polycrisis” of global challenges as a reason for seeking closer ties with like-minded partners, and welcomed talks to update the FTA, which is currently based on a 2011 deal with the European Union.
“The cultural, economic and security ties our countries share have never been stronger. Let’s build on these even more in the years ahead,” Sunak said in a post on X.
A spokesperson for Sunak’s office said the leaders had agreed the accord would “cement and enhance our relationship in crucial areas including security, technology and trade”.
Sunak and Yoon also discussed cooperation on security and foreign policy as well as clean energy, the spokesperson said.
Earlier Yoon told a business forum that co-operation with Britain on semiconductors, which South Korea is a major producer of, would help mitigate future supply chain crises.
Yoon also met with British opposition leader Keir Starmer, whose Labour Party have an around 20-percentage-point lead in opinion polls ahead of an election expected next year.
EVER CLOSER LINKS
Britain rolled out the red carpet for Yoon on Tuesday, with a guard of honour and a coach ride with King Charles to Buckingham Palace, before an opulent State Banquet.
On Wednesday, the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace saw the military band play K-pop hits, and at the banquet Charles also displayed his apparent familiarity with the pop genre.
Charles presented members of the girl group BLACKPINK with honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire medals a day after he had praised their environmental work.
“I can only admire how they can prioritise these vital issues, as well as being global superstars,” he said, in a wide-ranging speech where he paid tribute to the countries’ cultural and historic links, and those who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea on Wednesday suspended part of a 2018 military agreement with North Korea after it defied warnings from the United States and launched a spy satellite.
The suspension of a clause in the agreement will see South Korea step up military surveillance along the heavily fortified border with the North.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout in London, additional reporting by Joyce Lee in Seoul, Farouq Suleiman, Hanna Rantala and Kylie MacLellan in London, editing by Nick Macfie, Alexandra Hudson and Jonathan Oatis)