Summit to address North

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Summit to address North

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama is welcoming the South Korean president to the White House in a show of unity between close allies looking to deter nuclear-armed North Korea, while leaving the door open to negotiations.

The visit Friday by President Park Geun-hye follows heightened tensions this summer at the heavily militarized border between the two Koreas, and speculation that North Korea could be planning another rocket launch into space or a fourth nuclear test in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The two leaders are scheduled to adopt a joint statement on North Korea, particularly concerning Pyongyang’s continued development of nuclear weapons, after the summit, a senior Korean presidential aide said.

Park has cultivated closer relations with China as she looks to coax Beijing away from its traditional embrace of Pyongyang. Last month, she prompted hand-wringing in Washington when she attended a Chinese military parade marking the end of World War II that was snubbed by leaders of most major democracies.

The Oval Office meeting on Friday and working lunch with Obama is a chance to show that the diplomatic overture to Beijing hasn’t weakened South Korea’s strong ties with the United States.

Park and Obama are expected to compare notes on their respective recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They’ll also discuss the often-tetchy relations among China, Japan and South Korea, whose leaders are to hold a long-awaited summit in Seoul in early November.

Park said Thursday that the summit will be an opportunity to improve South Korea’s relations with another key U.S. ally, Japan, which would be welcomed by Washington.

But it’s North Korea that will top the agenda, and little is likely to change in the allies’ stance: standing tough against the threat of any North Korean provocations while remaining open to aid-for-disarmament talks if Pyongyang shows it is sincere about the goal of abandoning nuclear weapons. The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, however, shows little appetite to engage on those terms.

Park said Thursday that an upcoming summit of Northeast Asia’s three leading powers will be a chance to improve her nation’s strained relations with Japan.

Park spoke ahead of a White House meeting Friday with President Barack Obama, who is keen for America’s two key Asian allies to overcome bitter differences over Japanese abuses during World War II.

Park told a Washington think tank that in early November, Seoul will host a summit between the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China - the first such meeting in three and a half years.

“I hope this trilateral summit will provide an opportunity for Korea and Japan to clear away obstacles hindering closer bilateral ties and thus hold sincere discussions on the way forward toward a common future,” Park said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Park said she was willing to meet bilaterally with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but for such a meeting to be “meaningful,” there needed to be progress on the divisive issue of sexual exploitation of Korean women by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.

South Korea has been seeking an apology and compensation for surviving Korean victims.

Park said only 47 such women were still alive. AP

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