US President Barack Obama will host talks and hold a state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in October, the White House said Tuesday.
According to the announcement, President Obama will receive President Lee and his wife on 13 October, including for a state dinner that night. This will be the fifth state dinner held during the Obama administration. The meeting will demonstrate the unity between the US and South Korea on dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat, and also on a US-South Korea free trade agreement awaiting congressional approval.
In South Korea, the presidential office said in a statement, “The state visit to the US will serve as an important opportunity for the Korea-US relations to strengthen further as it will take place at a time when the relations are stronger than ever based on the trust and cooperation between the two leaders.”
Six-party talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament have stalled since December 2008, and while North Korea has repeatedly said it wants to return to the talks, the US has insisted that North Korea restore ties with the South first. The US also said in August that a reported North Korean offer to renounce nuclear testing would not be sufficient to continue with negotiations. Russia said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that North Korea is prepared to enact a moratorium on nuclear testing and spent nuclear fuel processing.
North Korea’s admission last November of uranium enrichment facilities “remains a matter of serious concern” to the US, because such activities violate UN Security Council resolutions, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Presidents Obama and Lee are also expected to review progress on a US-South Korea free trade agreement. Lawmakers have been pushing Obama to send that agreement, along with two other pending trade arrangements, to Congress for approval.
The US-South Korea free trade agreement was signed in 2007 but has not been ratified by the legislatures of the US and South Korea. In the US, key committees of the House of Representatives and Senate have endorsed Obama’s submission for ratification a US free trade pact that would slash 95 percent of tariffs between the two countries, but Republicans are unhappy that Obama intends to link the agreement with a renewal of benefits for workers who lost jobs due to foreign competition.
In South Korea, the trade deal remains controversial. The ruling Grand National Party calls for ratification as soon as possible, but the opposition Democratic Party insists that the agreement should be renegotiated as it favours the US.
Report: Obama to host state visit for S. Korea's Lee (AFP, 14 Sep 2011)
Report: South Korea president to visit White House Oct. 13 (Associated Press, 14 Sep 2011)
Report: Lee to make state visit to U.S. next month (Yonhap News, 14 Sep 2011)