Lee meets Medvedev in first of many bilaterals

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Lee meets Medvedev in first of many bilaterals

The curtain is up on Korea’s largest-ever diplomatic event as President Lee Myung-bak began yesterday a series of bilateral summits with world leaders at the Blue House.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was the first leader to have a bilateral meeting with Lee on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit. The Russian leader began a three-day state visit - the first trip to Korea since his inauguration in May 2008 - yesterday.

During their meeting, the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues including economic and energy cooperation and measures to develop the two countries’ strategic cooperative partnership in regards to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. At a joint press conference, Lee and Medvedev both stressed the need to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula through diplomatic means.

Both leaders said they will cooperate closely to resume the stalled six-party nuclear dismantlement talks, adding pressure on Pyongyang. Lee will also have bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the United States, China and Japan this week, and the effort to shutter the North’s nuclear arms program is expected to be discussed at all those meetings.

At the press conference, Lee also highlighted an agreement that will allow Korean businessmen to stay for longer periods in Russia.

Under the agreement, Korean businessmen and their families will first receive a one-year visa and, after that expires, will get visas for a three-year period. Until now, Koreans had to renew their work permits and visas every year. Seoul and Moscow’s justice ministers signed the agreement yesterday.

Later in the evening, Lee had a summit with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and vowed to speed up negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement, according to the Blue House. Australia is one of Korea’s largest trading partners, and Korea is the third-largest buyer of Australian goods and services - particularly raw materials and agricultural products, including beef.

In an interview with the Financial Times this week, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd expressed Canberra’s ambition to conclude the free trade deal next year.

Earlier in the morning, Lee began a busy day of presidential diplomacy by meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Blue House. The two leaders discussed efforts to encourage balanced growth in world economies and to fight climate change.

Lee expressed his hope that the United Nations could achieve its Millennium Development Goals, and Ban praised Korea’s efforts to include a development policy on the G-20 agenda, Kim Hee-jung, presidential spokeswoman, said.

Before his official schedule for the G-20 Summit begins this evening with a welcome reception, Lee will have held five bilateral meetings at the Blue House. Lee will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning.

A meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama will follow, and the two leaders will lunch together at the Blue House. A joint press conference by Lee and Obama will be held at 2 p.m., and the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, North Korea’s nuclear program as well as the two countries’ cooperation at the G-20 Summit are expected to be discussed at the meeting and the press conference.

At 3 p.m. Lee is scheduled to welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Blue House. The two leaders are expected to discuss the latest currency wars and North Korea’s nuclear program.

A meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is also scheduled for today before Lee heads to the National Museum of Korea to welcome the 33 world leaders to the G-20 Summit.

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