Park, Obama to have summit in May in DC

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Park, Obama to have summit in May in DC

President Park Geun-hye will visit Washington in early May for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, the Blue House said yesterday, to highlight the importance of Korea’s military alliance amidst daily threats from North Korea.

“Park will visit the United States at the invitation of Obama,” presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said yesterday. “The two countries are coordinating the schedule to arrange the trip in early May.”

“The trip will be Park’s first overseas travel as president,” Yoon said. “It was arranged taking into account the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance, which marks its 60th year this year.”

Earlier in the day, Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, announced the trip.

“During my visit [to Seoul for Park’s inauguration], President Park accepted President Obama’s invitation to visit Washington,” Donilon said at Asia Society New York where he delivered remarks on Monday. “And I can announce today that we look forward to welcoming her to the White House in May.”

Park’s choice of the U.S. for her first overseas trip as president has drawn media attention because some thought she would first visit China, highlighting Beijing’s role in the security crisis on the peninsula.

Yesterday’s announcement made clear that bolstering ties with Washington is the top priority for Seoul.

Park will meet with the leaders of China and Japan when Seoul hosts the annual trilateral summit among the three Asian nations later in May, a Blue House source said.

According to Yoon, Park and Obama had their first telephone chat on Dec. 21, two days after her presidential victory, and they agreed on the need for a summit. When Donilon visited Seoul last month for Park’s inauguration, Obama’s invitation was delivered, Yoon said.

Donilon also reaffirmed the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance. “I was struck by how much our leaders have in common in terms of their priorities and vision,” he said about his meeting with Park in Seoul after her inauguration. “When we met, I conveyed to her President Obama’s unwavering commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, and President Park gave her full support to modernizing our alliance and continuing the effort to partner on a wide range of regional and global issues.”

While Yoon refused to elaborate on any specific agenda for the Park-Obama summit, the two leaders are certain to address coordinated responses to North Korea’s latest threats in the aftermath of its third nuclear test.

The U.S. handover of wartime operational control to South Korea, scheduled for 2015, is also expected to be discussed.

It remains to be seen if other sensitive issues will be discussed such as the renegotiation of the agreement for cooperation between Seoul and Washington concerning civil use of atomic energy and the sharing of costs of the U.S. troops in the South.

Park’s visit to the United States in May will come after two Korea-U.S. joint military drills each wrap up on March 21 and April 30.

The North has a series of national events in April such as the birth anniversary of late founder Kim Il Sung (15th) and the anniversary of its military’s founding (25th), which boost the possibility of attacks or other provocations.


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

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