중앙데일리

Bush drops plan to visit Seoul amid protests

June 26,2008
Confirming an announcement from Washington, the Blue House said yesterday that U.S. President George W. Bush will not be coming to Seoul next month, contrary to earlier speculation.

Instead, he and President Lee Myung-bak will meet in Japan on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido.

After the Bush-Lee summit in the United States in March, the Korean media widely reported that Bush was expected to pay a return visit to Korea in July after attending the G8 meeting in the northern lakeside town of Toyako, Hokkaido.

With no Seoul trip included on his itinerary, Bush is scheduled to leave for Japan on July 5 and return to Washington on July 9.

“The president said he wants to go to South Korea, and he still may before the end of the year. But on this trip he’s just going to go to the G8,” said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, at a daily press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

She denied speculation that Bush was not visiting Korea because of growing public protests here over the resumption of U.S. beef imports.

“And I would actually say that we’re closer to finalizing this agreement on beef, and the U.S. Trade Representative feels very confident that we’ll be able to seal it before too long,” Perino said.

In Seoul, a key Blue House official said yesterday that the Korean government had expected Bush to come in July, but there had been no agreement between the two countries on the schedule.

The United States proposed rescheduling the trip and Seoul agreed, the official said.

“If we have to single out any specific reason [for Bush’s not coming to Seoul in July], it will be that the timing is difficult to maximize the outcome of the visit,” the official said.

Asked if the decision was made due to the anti-U.S. beef protests and possible anti-American sentiment here, the presidential aide said, “I can only say that we have taken into account various reasons, not just one.”

Both Seoul and Washington said Bush will have a meeting with Lee in Japan during the G8 summit.

Lee will be attending the summit as an observer; Korea is not a member of the G8.

The Lee-Bush meeting agenda still needs final confirmation, but the Blue House official said it is expected to include plans for restoring and reinforcing the alliance between the two nations.

In addition to his meeting with Bush on July 9, Lee is scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the same day.

He will also have bilateral summits with his Indian and Mexican counterparts the day before, the source said.

Perino added that Bush may have an opportunity to visit Seoul in August when he will be traveling to Asia to attend the Olympics in Beijing. Both Bush and Lee are going to the games.

The Blue House official said further discussion on the schedule of the visit will take place when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Seoul on Saturday and Sunday. She is to address a range of issues including the efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear programs.


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


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