The Korea Herald


Yoon travels to Netherlands for chip allaince, strategic partnership

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Dec. 10, 2023 - 15:20

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The national flags of the Netherlands (left) and South Korea are embedded within images of shaking hands. (123rf) The national flags of the Netherlands (left) and South Korea are embedded within images of shaking hands. (123rf)

President Yoon Suk Yeol is set to embark on a state visit to the Netherlands on Monday, mainly to "forge a chip alliance" and level up the existing bilateral strategic partnership in diplomacy, defense and economic security, the South Korean presidential office said Sunday.

The two countries are expected to strengthen cooperation in addressing a diverse set of challenges, including chip supply chain issues compounded by the intensifying US-China tech war.

"To forge a chip alliance, President Yoon plans to establish a new dialogue mechanism on semiconductors, sign a memorandum of understanding, and engage in discussions to excavate joint projects," presidential office's spokesperson Kim Soo-kyung told a televised briefing on Sunday, a day before Yoon's three-day visit to the Netherlands.

The Netherlands invests the most in South Korea among the European Union member states, the spokesperson explained. In terms of trade volume, it is Korea's second-largest trading partner in Europe after Germany.

"The core of the trade and investment relationship between the two countries is primarily rooted in the semiconductor industry," Kim told reporters.

Yoon also emphasized that discussions on chip cooperation were a "top priority" for his trip to the Netherlands in his interview with Agence France-Presse published Sunday.

"As competition between countries and regions intensifies to gain hegemony over emerging technologies, the semiconductor industry is strategically more important than ever before, which makes this visit to the Netherlands especially meaningful," Yoon told AFP.

South Korea plans to "significantly boost semiconductor cooperation with such major countries as the Netherlands, the United States and Japan going forward," Yoon said in his interview.

The Netherlands and Japan have joined the US-led restrictions on exports of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China.

South Korea and the Netherlands, both prominent players in the global semiconductor market, are notably expected to engage in focused discussions aimed at establishing a chip alliance that includes collaboration among government entities, businesses and universities, his office said Thursday.

The Netherlands stands as a powerhouse in the semiconductor industry, housing ASML, the sole manufacturer of extreme ultraviolet lithography machines. The machines have played a transformative role in revolutionizing semiconductor manufacturing.

Yoon is scheduled to visit the headquarters of ASML and tour the manufacturing facility's clean rooms. This marks the company's first such disclosure to a foreign leader

EUV lithography machines enable the production of smaller, more powerful, highly sophisticated microchips, which are integral to modern defense systems. The Yoon government sees that a chip alliance will lead to enhancing the capabilities of South Korean defense contractors.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (left) and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shake hands during their meeting in Seoul in November 2022. (Dutch Prime Minister's Office) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (left) and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shake hands during their meeting in Seoul in November 2022. (Dutch Prime Minister's Office)

Yoon's spokesperson said Sunday that South Korea and the Netherlands will also "deepen the strategic partnership based on the chip alliance and strengthen security cooperation rooted in the solidarity of shared values and economic security through collaboration in advanced technologies."

South Korea and the Netherlands agreed to upgrade their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership in November 2022.

"Moreover, under the mutual understanding of the two countries that in an era where economics equates to security and security equates to economics, both will discuss strengthening partnerships in the realms of economy and security as a top priority."

Both countries have been in discussions to establish an economic security dialogue mechanism, which would involve regular consultations on the matter and reinforce strategic communication channels in the fields of diplomacy and security, Yoon's office said last week.

Seoul and Amsterdam, for instance, have been actively exploring avenues to enhance high-level exchanges in the defense and arms industries. Discussions have been underway to promote collaboration among defense companies, according to Yoon's office.

During Yoon's state visit, both sides will discuss ways to work together to address issues such as the North Korean nuclear program, providing support for war-torn Ukraine, and challenges in the Middle East to "safeguard the freedom and maintain the rule-based international order," Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office said last week.

The two countries are also anticipated to discuss collaborative initiatives in the emerging security domain, encompassing military applications of artificial intelligence and cyber security.

Furthermore, extensive talks will be held to bolster cooperation in forward-looking industries, spanning carbon-free energy, quantum technologies, artificial intelligence and smart agriculture.