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S Korea, UK to upgrade ties, vow to jointly address global challenges



South Korea and the United Kingdom are set to elevate their ties to a “Global Strategic Partnership,” which could deepen collaboration on a variety of issues ranging from security to economic fronts.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will adopt the bilateral “Downing Street Accord” Tuesday, the South’s Presidential Office said in a statement. 

Yoon has been on a four-day state visit to the U.K. since Monday, serving as the first foreign head of state to be invited for a state visit by King Charles III since his coronation.

The accord will highlight Seoul and London’s “joint stance on issues on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s nuclear program.” Both sides will collectively respond to global issues such as the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, and growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific, said the statement on Tuesday. 

The two countries pledged to cooperate under the framework of multilateral platforms like the UN Security Council, the Group of 20 , and the Group of Seven to “strengthen the rules-based order in the international community,” it added.

Putting their words into action on the security front, Seoul and London are planning to expand joint military drills. According to the statement, they are set to hold joint maritime patrols to strictly enforce the U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

The statement came as South Korea actively reiterates its stance on global security issues, encompassing the  conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as the delicate issue of Taiwan.

Under the trilateral framework with the United States and Japan, South Korea issued a stern warning against Russia, North Korea and Hamas in San Francisco last week, highlighting the expanding scope of its role in defending global security challenges that extend beyond Asia.

To address global security challenges, it is crucial for South Korea to partner with key European nations like the U.K. Last year, South Korea officially established its Diplomatic Mission to NATO. Europe also needs an Asian ally to address security issues in Asia, such as the challenges posed by China.

A significant area where the two nations could collaborate is in cyberspace.

The two countries will strengthen their capabilities to “respond to cyber threats through the signing of a Strategic Cyber Partnership,” the statement said.

Economic Ties

South Korea and the U.K. also intend to further strengthen their economic and technological cooperation, from semiconductors to space technology.

The Presidential Office statement said that Seoul and London will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on bilateral semiconductor cooperation to establish a stable supply chain for the future.

Additionally, it added that Yoon and Sunak will explore economic cooperation in future industries including artificial intelligence, digital technology, nuclear and space technology, biotechnology, quantum technologies, and renewable energy.

The effort to enhance cooperation in areas such as semiconductor production and future industries adds weight to U.S. President Joe Biden’s strategy to create an alternative global supply chain that knits democratic nations closer together while requiring less of China’s input. 

Cutting dependence on Chinese components and resources is seen as a derisking exercise for businesses given that Beijing has intertwined politics with economics and imposed measures on countries that make political decisions contrary to its interests. 

Edited by Elaine Chan and Mike Firn.

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