President Lee to visit Myanmar for historic visit

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President Lee to visit Myanmar for historic visit

BEIJING - President Lee Myung-bak left for Myanmar today for a historic visit to the country, becoming the first Korean leader to travel there since a visiting South Korean president narrowly survived an assassination attempt nearly three decades ago.

With today's state visit, Lee will become the first Korean president to return to the country since the 1983 Rangoon bombing. On the first day of his two-day trip, Lee will have a summit and a dinner with Myanmar President U Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, the capital of the country also known as Burma.

According to sources, Lee is also looking into a possible meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world's most popular political dissidents.

"Lee's visit to Myanmar is the first in 29 years," said Kim Tae-hyo, senior presidential secretary for national security strategy, stressing that the trip is taking place at a crucial moment for both countries.

"With the democratization of Myanmar and the government's recent policy to open up the country, the United States and European Union are making fast moves to lift the long-imposed sanctions," Kim said.

"Myanmar has traditionally maintained good relationships with China and India, but now it is looking for a new partner outside the region to develop its economy. We believe South Korea has the power to offer alternatives and pass on development knowhow to Myanmar, as it is in need of a partner on development, economic growth and democratization as well as efforts to stop military cooperation with North Korea."

At the summit, Lee is expected to discuss economic, trade and energy cooperation with the Myanmar leader, as well as efforts to end the country's suspected arms trade with the North.
According to Kim, Lee's visit to Myanmar was realized at the invitation of President Thein Sein during their meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Indonesia last year.

Although no Korean leader has visited the country since the failed assassination attempt by the North Korean agents to kill visiting South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan in 1983, leaders of the two countries occasionally had meetings elsewhere. In June 2009, Thein Sein, who was prime minister at the time, visited Korea to attend the Korea-ASEAN summit.


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

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