Saenuri leader heads to Washington on U.S. tour

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Saenuri leader heads to Washington on U.S. tour

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung kicked off a nine-day tour of three U.S. cities and met with war veterans in Washington to emphasize the alliance between Korea and the United States.

Kim departed Saturday, accompanied by 10 National Assembly lawmakers, including Saenuri spokesman Rep. Kim Young-woo, Rep. Na Kyung-won, the chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee and Rep. Kim Hack-yong, the chairman’s chief of staff.

This marks Kim’s first U.S. visit since the five-term lawmaker became head of the ruling party one year ago.

After arriving in Washington, Kim paid a visit Saturday to the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

“We arrived in Washington this morning, but I thought it was our courtesy as Koreans to make meeting you our very first stop,” Kim said to the former servicemen, all veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“When the North Korean army, supported by the former Soviet Union, invaded South Korea some 65 years ago, many American youths rushed to help a small country in Asia, without knowing its name, location or history,” he continued. “You all are the saviors of South Korea. As the head of the ruling party, I wish to thank you and convey our sincere gratitude.”

At a separate reception for Korean War veterans, the lawmakers also bowed deeply to the former servicemen, a sign of ultimate respect.

“The United States is a peerless ally that has no substitute,” Kim told reporters in Washington regarding the significance of his visit. “The ruling party’s diplomacy would be to show the spirit of ‘we go together’; that we and the United States will always go along together.”

Kim will meet with senior U.S. lawmakers including House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as researchers at U.S. think tanks.

Along with emphasizing the Korea-U.S. alliance, he will discuss the denuclearization of North Korea and is also scheduled to visit the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

Next, the delegation travels to Los Angeles and New York, where Kim may meet with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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