South Korean president accused of avoiding Nancy Pelosi in bid to placate China | South Korea

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has been accused of trying to placate China by shunning Nancy Pelosi, a day after she became the highest-ranking American to visit Taiwan in a quarter of a century and sparked a furious response from Beijing.

Yoon, a conservative who took office in May, will reportedly speak with Pelosi by phone but will not meet with her in person during her visit to Seoul on Thursday, South Korean media said.

Yoon had reportedly planned a summer vacation long before the US House Speaker’s decision to visit the region, which included a controversial stop in Taiwan on Wednesday that prompted threats of retaliation from China. The South Korean leader is in Seoul.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of Chinese territory, on Thursday began four days of “unprecedented” live-fire drills at six locations surrounding the island, in a show of force designed to communicate its anger with Washington and Taipei.

He also summoned the US ambassador to Beijing and banned thousands of food imports from Taiwan.

Critics have accused Yoon of avoiding Pelosi to avoid antagonizing China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner. South Korean broadcaster TBS quoted a presidential Blue House official as denying that China was a factor in Yoon’s decision not to meet with Pelosi, as his itinerary had been finalized before his visit was announced.

The last time Pelosi visited South Korea in 2015, she met with then-President Park Geun-hye and then-Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

Kim Heung-kyu, director of the US-China Policy Institute at Ajou University, told the Korea Times. “Pelosi is the number three politician in the US, and if this was in the past, the president or the secretary of state would have tried to hold talks with her, but I think this time the government seems to have decided not to politicize excessively. the problem and unnecessarily antagonize China.”

Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and is expected to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Friday. Pelosi said Wednesday that her visit to Taiwan made it “unequivocally clear” that the US was “not going to abandon” its democratic ally.

In Seoul, he was due to meet his South Korean counterpart, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, and members of the government and main opposition parties.

Reports said Pelosi and Kim would release a joint statement and summarize their discussions on North Korea and regional security, but would not take questions from reporters.

Pelosi also plans to visit the truce village of Panmunjom, located along the heavily armed border between South and North Korea.

A possible meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin was ruled out after he left for Cambodia on Wednesday to attend an ASEAN meeting.

In Tokyo, Pelosi and Kishida are expected to reiterate their commitment to US-Japan cooperation to ensure a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region amid increased Chinese military activity in the South China Sea. South and East.

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