Florida Governor Ron DeSantis meets South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo in Seoul
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis meets South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo in Seoul AFP

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met South Korea's prime minister in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss trade and North Korea's nuclear weapons on the second stop of his four-country trip before a possible presidential run.

DeSantis, who is widely expected to seek the Republican nomination in next year's White House race, is visiting Seoul while South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is on a six-day state visit to Washington.

He kicked off his international tour -- widely seen as a bid to burnish his diplomatic and security credentials -- in Japan this week.

In South Korea, he met Kim Dong-yeon, the governor of Gyeonggi province, to discuss expanding economic cooperation, including in industries such as biotechnology. Samsung Electronics, social media giant NAVER and others have their headquarters in Gyeonggi.

DeSantis then met Prime Minister Han Duck-soo for talks, during which the Florida governor "emphasized the importance of the history and alliance between" Seoul and Washington, Han's office said in a statement.

Han said he explained Seoul's "policies toward complete denuclearisation of North Korea" to DeSantis.

Han and DeSantis also discussed regional and global issues that included Northeast Asia, Han's office said without giving details.

Washington and its Asia allies Tokyo and Seoul are seeking closer military cooperation over North Korea's growing nuclear threats.

North Korea said last week its status as a nuclear power was "irreversible and final", slamming a G7 call for leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons entirely.

Tensions have also flared recently between Washington and Beijing, with China staging three days of war games this month that simulated "sealing off" Taiwan.

The drills followed a visit to Los Angeles by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

China, Pyongyang's most important ally and economic benefactor, views democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to bring the island under its control one day.

DeSantis stressed on Tuesday the importance of warding off conflict over Taiwan, telling a Japanese media outlet that "what China respects is strength".

He is also due to visit Israel, another traditional stop for US presidential candidates, particularly Republicans, and Britain on his trip.

DeSantis has yet to officially announce his 2024 bid but is already the biggest threat to former president Donald Trump in both polls and media attention.