The Korea Herald


Scholz visits Seoul to discuss NK, ties

By Choi Si-young

Published : May 21, 2023 - 15:23

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks to reporters during the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 21, 2023. (Reuters-Yonhap) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks to reporters during the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 21, 2023. (Reuters-Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks meant to discuss efforts for denuclearizing North Korea and improving economic ties, as they mark 140 years of relations in Seoul on Sunday.

As of press time, details of the discussion had not been disclosed. Yoon’s spokesperson Lee Doo-woon previously said, “The summit is an opportunity to deepen cooperation over economic security and also over regional and global issues.” Lee was referring to supply chain constraints to come and the current impasse involving suspended nuclear dialogue on North Korea.

Hours ahead of the summit, Scholz toured the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas, in a show of unity to support South Korea’s push to deter North Korea's growing nuclear threats.

The North is carrying on with its missile tests while eyeing a potential nuclear test, its first in six years. The Yoon administration says it will not condone such a flagrant violation of international sanctions, aiming to curb aggression with the US, its biggest ally.

“Germany stands ready to help facilitate dialogue,” Scholz told a South Korean outlet in an interview ahead of the summit. “The European Union is following through on sanctions to pressure the North Korean regime, and the sanctions are meant for the top leadership not for its people.”

During the one-day trip by Scholz, the two leaders were also expected to touch on Seoul’s role in defending Ukraine against Russia. The Korean leader last week promised to provide support to Kyiv by working with the Western military alliance NATO at a meeting with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska in Seoul. Yoon last month hinted at arms aid for the first time if a humanitarian crisis prompts it.

“I thank South Korea for its humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Every country makes an independent decision on how war support is provided to Kyiv,” Scholz said in the interview.

Previously, a senior German government official said at a press briefing that Berlin was interested in what the Korean president has to say, referring to Yoon’s conditional offer.

Joint action on climate change, the official added, is also a priority high up on the agenda. South Korea is a country with the latest technologies so building on tech ties is another topic, according to the official.

“Joint work on renewable energy is already underway and we want to see that expand,” Scholz said in the interview, stressing building a “global hydrogen economy” was a pressing concern as the world fights climate change.

Following the summit, Yoon this week will meet with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, finishing a flurry of diplomatic activity that began Wednesday.