Foreign delegates fly in to applaud woman president

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Foreign delegates fly in to applaud woman president

High-ranking officials from the four superpowers - the United States, China, Japan and Russia - will attend President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration today, underscoring the significance of all four in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test earlier this month.

The ceremony will be attended by 145 foreign dignitaries based in Seoul, including Uzbekistan Ambassador Vitali Fen, who is the dean of the foreign diplomatic corps in Korea, according to Park’s transition team. Thomas Donilon, U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, has been sent as a special envoy to personally congratulate the new president. Accompanying Donilon will be National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel.

Though concerns have been raised that the U.S. envoys are less important than envoys sent to past inaugurations, insiders note that Donilon is considered one of the most influential figures in the Obama administration. He oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended former President Lee Myung-bak’s inauguration in 2008 while Rice’s predecessor Colin Powell attended the inaugurations of Roh Moo-hyun in 2003.

John Kerry, the newly appointed secretary of state for Obama’s second-term administration, is taking his first overseas trip from yesterday to March 6 with stops in Britain, Germany and Egypt.

Beijing has sent Liu Yandong, its highest-ranking female official, as a special representative. According to Beijing’s foreign ministry last week, Liu is a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s 25-member Politburo and is a state councilor for education, culture and science affairs. Liu arrived in Seoul on Saturday for a four-day visit and is expected to discuss with Korean officials issues related to North Korea’s recent nuclear test. She is the first high-level Chinese official to visit Seoul since the Feb. 12 nuclear test.

When Lee Myung-bak held his inauguration five years ago, China sent Tang Jiaxuan, a state councilor for foreign affairs less senior than Liu.

“Park and [incoming president] Xi Jinping have personal ties,” said a diplomatic official in Seoul. “By sending a higher level official to Park’s inauguration ceremony, it is signaling the greater importance of the Korea-China relationship.”

Japan is sending Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, a former prime minister and foreign minister. Aso will be accompanied by some 30 lawmakers. Viktor Ishayev, minister for the Russian Far East in the Dmitry Medvedev cabinet, is also in town for Park’s inauguration ceremony.

Notable women attending the ceremony are Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan and Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

By Lee Eun-joo []

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