Opposition leader Lee finds red-carpet greeting in U.S.

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Opposition leader Lee finds red-carpet greeting in U.S.

WASHINGTON - Grand National Party leader Lee Hoi-chang, the head of the major Korean opposition party, is receiving a high-powered reception here during a visit that began Tuesday. Mr. Lee has met with several senior officials of the Bush administration.

On Thursday, the Korean presidential candidate met with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Daniel Hastert, speaker of the House of Representatives. The meeting with Mr. Cheney was arranged at Mr. Lee's request, Korean embassy officials here said.

Some Washington political observers said the red-carpet treatment was somewhat out of the ordinary; one said the reception suggests that Washington is treating Mr. Lee as a strong candidate to succeed Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

The party's headquarters in Seoul was exuberant over its leader's welcome in the capital of Korea's closest ally.

"In his meeting with Mr. Cheney, President Lee will discuss a wide range of issues, including inter-Korean affairs, trade issues and President George Bush's upcoming visit to South Korea," Nam Kyung-pil, the opposition party spokesman said.

Mr. Lee also met Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser. Former Foreign Minister Han Seung-joo accompanied Mr. Lee at that meeting.

At a Wednesday morning event sponsored by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation introduced the opposition leader as a "strong" presidential candidate.

At the conference, Mr. Lee promised to continue attempts to engage the North, but said President Kim's "obsession to reap results" in inter-Korean reconciliation has led to "disgruntlement and the disintegration of a national consensus on North Korean policy."

The Blue House and the ruling Millennium Democratic Party did not let that barb go unanswered. A Blue House official said, "Recent poll results show that an overwhelming majority of Koreans support the 'sunshine policy.'"

The ruling party spokesman, Lee Nak-yon, blasted the opposition leader for commenting on domestic politics in a foreign capital.

"Mr. Lee focuses on domestic politics when he is abroad because he lacks knowledge and interest in international affairs," Lee Nak-yon said.

by Choi Sang-yeon

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