EU leaders to visit South Korea for talks

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel leave after a press conference ahead of the G7 Summit in Japan, at the European Council in Brussels in this file picture from May 15, 2023. - AFP

SEOUL (AFP): European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are set to visit Seoul on Monday (May 22) for a summit with South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol.

The European leaders, who have just attended the G7 summit in Hiroshima, are making their first visit to the East Asian country for talks on issues including trade agreements, the war in Ukraine, and North Korea's banned weapons programmes.

"The EU and South Korea are expected to express their strong joint support for upholding the rules-based international order," the European Council said in a statement.

South Korea, the world's ninth-largest arms exporter, has sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and sold tanks and howitzers to Poland -- a key ally for Kyiv as it battles Russia's invasion.

However, it has a long-standing policy of not providing weapons to active conflict zones.

Yoon held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the G7 Sunday, following a meeting with Zelensky's wife, Olena Zelenska, in Seoul last week.

During his meeting with Zelensky in Hiroshima, Yoon promised additional non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including demining equipment and ambulances, at the request of the Ukrainian president, according to South Korea's presidential office.

Yoon's office said the visit by EU leaders will be an "opportunity to strengthen practical cooperation in the fields of economy, health, science and technology and deepen cooperation on regional and global issues."

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