Obama to invite Park later in 2015

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Obama to invite Park later in 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to invite President Park Geun-hye to Washington later this year, according to Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the United States strengthens measures to rebalance toward Asia.

On Saturday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Munich, Germany, where they agreed that it is timely and desirable for the two leaders to meet some time later this year.

The timeline, agenda and details are still being determined, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Obama administration unveiled a set of measures on Friday in its National Security Strategy to advance the United States’ strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

“The United States has been and will remain a Pacific power,” the report said. “Over the next five years, nearly half of all growth outside the United States is expected to come from Asia.”

In accordance with the security strategy report, Kerry relayed plans to invite the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan to the United States this year as part of its “pivot to Asia.”

Also on Friday, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice in a Brookings Institute seminar in Washington relayed that she was “pleased to announce” the White House has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington for state visits “in furtherance of our relationships throughout this vital region.”

She added that Obama looks forward to extending invitations to other Asian leaders, including President Park and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Abe last visited the United States in February 2013.

Park visited the Oval Office in May 2013, in her first foreign visit since she was inaugurated that same year, to hold talks with Obama. Xi also held an informal summit with Obama in the Sunnylands estate in California the following month in June 2013.

Kyodo News Agency reported that Tokyo and Washington are arranging Abe’s visit in late April or early May, citing sources familiar with the process, when they are expected to discuss an early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and bolstering their security alliance, among other matters.

Observers have pointed out that if Xi attends the UN General Assembly meeting in New York between late September and October, it is highly likely that this would include his first official trip to Washington.

Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Yun have held bilateral and trilateral talks nine times since 2013. In the latest round of talks, along the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the two envoys set the agenda for the year and agreed to bolster cooperation with the aim to denuclearize North Korea.

Kerry lauded Seoul’s efforts to push for a trilateral foreign ministers’ summit with Tokyo and Beijing in late March, a meeting which has been stalled because of diplomatic tensions in the region.

The two also exchanged “deep consultations about the possibility of five-party talks,” after successful talks in Tokyo last month between the top nuclear envoys of South Korea, China and Japan, the chief negotiators for the currently defunct six-party talks.

The talks to denuclearize Pyongyang, which also include North Korea, Russia and the United States, have been stalled since 2008.

In Munich, Yun additionally met with the foreign ministers of Germany, Russia, Switzerland and Italy. German President Joachim Gauck is expected to visit Seoul later this year.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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