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Summit to send North stern words

‘Grand bargain’ can only come after Pyongyang returns to 6-party talks   PLAY AUDIO

Nov 19,2009
U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he steps off Air Force One upon his arrival at the American air base in Osan. He will have a summit meeting with President Lee Myung-bak today in Seoul. [AP]
A stern message toward North Korea to resolve the nuclear impasse will be issued at the summit of President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama today, a senior Blue House official said yesterday.

After wrapping up his visit to China, Obama arrived here yesterday evening, landing at the U.S. Forces Korea’s air base in Osan, south of Seoul. South Korea is the last stop on Obama’s nine-day Asian tour. Anticipation was running high yesterday that today’s summit between Lee and Obama will propel both leaders to push their legislatures to complete the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

Beyond North Korea and the FTA, climate change and U.S. cooperation in Seoul’s hosting of the G-20 summit next November will also be on the table. Blue House officials said President Lee spent much of yesterday preparing for the summit, going over the main agenda items with key aides.

The summit follows Washington’s decision to send a special envoy to North Korea to discuss Pyongyang’s possible return to the stalled six-nation nuclear talks. Lee and Obama are also meeting days after a naval skirmish between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.

Lee’s North Korea policy architect said yesterday that Lee and Obama will discuss what they can offer within the so-called grand bargain proposal.

“North Korea has not returned to the six-nation talks yet,” Kim Tae-hyo, Lee’s secretary for national strategy, told YTN yesterday. “At this point, Lee and Obama are expected to discuss how they can work together to create a package deal to be offered to the North in return for its nuclear dismantlement. Furthermore, they will discuss how to coordinate it with Japan, China and Russia, and how the North will react to it. The Lee-Obama summit will also serve as an opportunity to discuss the blueprint of the deal depending on the North’s reaction.”

“Only after the North returns to the six-nation talks can we make an offer, and the North can react,” Kim said. “At this point, it is important for North Korea to decide to give up its nuclear arms programs. It is inappropriate to discuss what the international community will offer inside the grand bargain while the North hides the core parts of its nuclear program. To this end, a stern message will be sent to the North through the Lee-Obama summit.”

Lee and Obama will also discuss the FTA, signed in 2007. It would liberalize bilateral trade between the two countries. Leaders of Korea’s major business lobbies, including the Federation of Korean Industries, visited the National Assembly yesterday to urge lawmakers to ratify the deal as soon as possible. The summit also follows a bipartisan move in the U.S. Congress urging Obama to quickly submit the ratification bill.

Park Sun-kyoo, Lee’s spokesman, said the Blue House also geared up to provide the best possible security for Obama, who is visiting Korea for the first time. Lee personally chose gifts for the U.S. president. “Because Obama learned taekwondo when he was [an Illinois state] senator, a taekwondo uniform, a black belt and an honorary certificate will be presented to him as presidential gifts,” Park said.

Although the U.S. first lady is not accompanying the American president this time, a Korean cookbook in English will also be delivered for Michelle Obama, Park said. After summit meetings this morning, Lee and Obama will jointly address the press. But no joint statement will be issued to summarize the summit.

Following the press conference, the two will have lunch at the presidential guesthouse of Sangchunjae inside the Blue House. According to other Blue House officials, a traditional Korean meal of bulgogi, japchae and other dishes will be served along with California wine.

While the ruling party welcomed Obama, opposition parties were split over his first trip to Korea.

“I have seen footage of the two leaders [in a previous meeting] on TV. As I saw them standing close, whispering to each other, I had an impression that they have built a deep friendship and trust on a personal level,” said Chung Mong-joon, the Grand National Party chairman. The Democratic Party’s Chairman Chung Sye-kyun also said the Lee-Obama summit should serve as an opportunity to find a way to resolve the nuclear crisis.

In contrast, Lee Hoi-chang, head of the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party, expressed disappointment at Obama’s scheduled itinerary in Korea.

“Obama attended a series of events in Japan and participated in a debate with university students in China,” Lee said. “And yet, he is only staying 24 hours in Korea and had no special plans other than the summit and the visit to the U.S. Forces Korea.”


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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