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- Donald Trump is the first US president to make a state visit to South Korea in 36 years. A state visit involves more pomp and ceremony and could be used to flatter Trump and gain his favor. Trump and South Korea’s president have not had a close friendship before this trip.
When President Donald Trump landed in South Korea on Tuesday afternoon he became the first US president to make a state visit to the nation in decades.
While previous presidents have visited South Korea, according to the US Office of the Historian, Ronald Reagan was the last to make what could be defined as a state visit. South Korean officials said it was the first visit of the sort in 25 years.
Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all made several non-state visits to South Korea, with Clinton addressing the National Assembly in 1993.
Visits of state leaders fall into several categories, including working visits, official visits and state visits.
There is no clear definition of a state visit but such affairs typically involve an elevated degree of ceremony, which begins with an invitation from a head of state who acts as the host for the visit.
A state visit will generally involve a state dinner, the exchange of gifts, and military honors. There is less focus on policy and meetings than other types of visits, but the visiting leader will often give an address to the host legislature.
In the US, a country can only receive one state visit per presidential term.
State visit diplomacy
Trump has a well-documented penchant for pomp and opulence, and world leaders are taking note.
His first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia involved giant displays of respect and admiration. Red carpets and brass bands met Trump at the airport and billboards of Trump’s likeness were found across Riyadh.
Japan also organized an impressive itinerary for Trump’s visit earlier this week.
After gifting Trump a gold $3,755 golf club last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arranged for Trump to play a round of golf with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, the world’s No. 4 golf player. Trump also received a gold-emblazoned hat that said “Donald & Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever been closer to Japan than we are right now,” Trump said.
It’s a pattern South Korea sought to repeat.
Trump received a 21-gun solute, a 300-person military honor guard, and military band performance before being whisked to a state dinner with President Moon Jae-in.
The relationship between Trump and Moon has been poor
The visit may ultimately grant Moon a closer personal friendship with Trump, something that has eluded the two leaders.
“He has his BFF here in Japan, but with South Korea – he hasn’t gone full-bore like he has on the Mexican leader, but he definitely has a more contentious relationship,” Jonathan Berkshire Miller of the Japan Institute of International Affairs told The Washington Post.
Strengthening his personal connection with Trump is likely part of Moon’s mission during this state visit, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told Associate Press.
“Now poor President Moon is playing catch-up ball because everyone acknowledges that he’s not bonding quite as much with Donald Trump as the rest of the region,” said O’Hanlon. He said Moon could face pressure “to deliver a stronger relationship” whereas “in most other parts of the world, people are trying to keep their distance from Donald Trump.”
A state visit could surely only help.