Obama to host state visit for South Korea's Lee

AFP , Wednesday 14 Sep 2011

US President to hold solidarity talks and state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in a bid to advance talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament

US President Barack Obama will host talks and lay on the official pageantry of a state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in October, the White House said on Tuesday.

The meeting will showcase the solidarity between Washington and Seoul on confronting the nuclear threat posed by communist North Korea, and also a US-South Korea free trade agreement that is awaiting congressional approval.

"This visit will highlight the strong alliance, the global partnership, and the deep economic ties between the United States and the Republic of Korea," a White House statement said.

"The visit will also celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people."

In Seoul, Lee's office said the visit came "at a time when the relations are stronger than ever based on the trust and cooperation between the two leaders."

"The state visit to the US will serve as an important opportunity for the Korea-US relations to strengthen further," the statement from his office said.

Six-nation talks on the North's nuclear disarmament - involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia - have been at a standstill since December 2008.

The North has repeatedly expressed a desire to go back to the talks, but the United States has urged it to first mend ties with the South.

The United States said in August that a reported North Korean offer to renounce nuclear testing would be insufficient to resume negotiations.

The Kremlin said North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il, during a visit to Russia, told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that his government is ready to impose a moratorium on nuclear testing and spent nuclear fuel processing.

"If in fact they are now willing to refrain from nuclear testing and missile launches, this would be welcome but it would be insufficient," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"If it's true, (it's a) welcome first step, but far from enough... to resume the six-party talks."

North Korea's disclosure last November of uranium enrichment facilities "remains a matter of serious concern" to Washington, because such activities violate UN Security Council resolutions, Nuland said.

The US-South Korea free trade pact was signed in 2007 but has yet to be ratified by the legislatures of the two countries.

Key committees of the House of Representatives and Senate have given a green light for Obama to submit the largest US free trade pact in a generation that would slash 95 percent of tariffs between the two countries for ratification.

But Republicans are angry that Obama plans to attach the agreement to a renewal of benefits for workers who lost jobs due to foreign competition.

Lee will also be in the United States this month to attend the United Nations General Assembly and other events.

In New York on 20 September, Lee will receive the World Statesman Award presented by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation for his contribution to world peace, democracy and human rights.

The following day, the South Korean leader will attend the General Assembly and give a speech pledging that his country will take greater responsibility in international affairs, his office said.


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