Park to stick to tradition with early U.S. summit

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Park to stick to tradition with early U.S. summit

President-elect Park Geun-hye is likely to visit the United States in May to hold a bilateral summit with President Barack Obama, multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“Though the administration has not kicked off yet, it is normal to promote such a summit schedule four to five months in advance [of it taking place],” said a government official.

“[Park] has chosen to make the U.S. her first official trip overseas in consideration of the Korea-U.S. alliance. It will happen sometime in or around May.”

The official said the summit will be aimed at solidifying political, economic and defense-related ties. This year marks the 60th anniversary of their alliance.

“The transition team has only just been assembled, so there have not been any specific orders made by President-elect Park yet regarding a Korea-U.S. summit,” an official from Park’s transition team said yesterday. “But I’m aware that she is considering a trip to the U.S. at an early stage because she is aware of how important the alliance and bilateral ties are to domestic affairs.”

The official said after Park is inaugurated on Feb. 25 she will immediately prioritize urgent matters such as the struggling domestic economy. When she is done reviewing these, she will embark on diplomatic trips to numerous countries, the source added.

“Building trust, keeping promises and chasing stability are Park’s three top goals right now,” the official said. “Though it’s too early to set or confirm an exact date for her U.S. trip, it will happen soon after she takes office, as was the case for many of her predecessors.”

Recent presidents have visited the U.S. within two to four months of taking office. Incumbent President Lee Myung-bak went to the U.S. and Japan from April 15 to 21, 2008, some 50 days after his official inauguration.

Meanwhile, Park will send Saenuri Party Representative Rhee In-je as a special envoy to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan. 23 to 26, Park’s spokesman Park Sun-kyoo said on Saturday. Rhee served as one of the co-chiefs on her election campaign.

Rhee told the JoongAng Ilbo, “President-elect Park asked me to attend the forum on her behalf as she cannot go in person, even though she was invited. I will faithfully deliver her view of the world economy and Korea’s role in helping its recovery.”

Rhee is expected to meet Park first to be briefed on the message she wants to convey.

By Jeong Yong-soo, Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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