Park arranges U.S. trip before Beijing decision

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Park arranges U.S. trip before Beijing decision

President Park Geun-hye rescheduled a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington to Oct. 16, the Blue House and White House jointly announced Thursday.

The new date for the summit, announced unusually early, comes as Park is mulling attending a military parade in Beijing to commemorate the end of World War II next month. Washington is said to be against her attending.

“As the fourth Korea-U.S. leaders’ summit since [President Park’s] inauguration, the talks will focus on advancing the Korea-U.S. alliance and cooperation on the North Korea nuclear issue,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said in a briefing Thursday.

The two leaders are also expected to exchange opinions on areas of mutual interest, including “peace, stability and prosperity in Northeast Asia.”

In late May, Park canceled a six-day U.S. trip and summit with Obama originally scheduled for mid-June to deal with the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in Korea. Washington and Seoul agreed to reschedule a visit soon.

Park, who came into office in February 2013, last visited Washington in May of that year, when she addressed a joint session of the U. S. Congress.

The White House welcomed Park’s visit in a statement, which it said “will underscore the strength and breadth of the U.S.-Republic of Korea partnership.”

“President Obama and President Park will exchange views on a broad range of security, economic and global issues, including the U.S.-ROK alliance and the critical role it plays in assuring regional stability and security,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

This includes expanding bilateral cooperation into new areas such as environment, energy, space, health and cybersecurity, along with current security issues “in the face of the continued threat from North Korea.”

In the past, Korea-U.S. presidents’ summits were usually announced around 20 days before the actual talks.

Park’s early announcement comes as it is expected she will accept President Xi Jinping’s invitation to China’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II, which includes a major military parade in Tiananmen Square on Sept. 3.

Diplomatic sources indicated that Washington was not keen on Park attending, as it could send a negative signal on the state of the alliance between the United States and Korea.

Publicly, both Seoul and Washington have emphasized that the decision will ultimately be Park’s.

“Cementing the U.S. trip is a step in order to enable [the president’s] visit to China next month,” a Korean government official said.

“The Park Geun-hye administration, unlike previous governments, has very good relations with both China and the United States,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, on Thursday. “In order to maintain this, there is a need to visit China.”

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

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