Lee, Bush Agree to Forge '21st Century Alliance'

    April 21, 2008 07:25

    President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President George W. Bush walk arm in arm to meet journalists after their summit at the U.S. presidential retreat of Camp David on Saturday morning.
    President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President George W. Bush, meeting at Camp David on Saturday, agreed to declare a 21st century strategic alliance during Bush's return visit to South Korea in July.

    Lee said he "agreed to develop our alliance into an alliance based on freedom and democracy, human rights and the principle of market economy -- otherwise known as the 21st century strategic alliance, something that will contribute to global peace and security as well."

    Bush said, "I'm confident that this meeting has strengthened our relationship. I think [Lee] described the relationship as a good one -- a 21st century strategic alliance -- that makes sense to me. So what does that mean? Well, it means we work in ways to deal with 21st century problems, such as proliferation of nuclear materials; such as working to make sure our children are educated with the tools necessary to be productive citizens; such as having a recognition that in the 21st century, a free and fair trading system will be necessary for prosperity."

    The two leaders agreed that the Korea-U.S. free trade deal would be mutually beneficial, while agreeing to give top priority to helping the legislatures of the two countries ratify it this year.

    They also agreed it is important to maintain the current capacity of the U.S. Forces Korea for peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, maintaining the current deployment level of the USFK at 28,500 troops and scrap a plan to withdraw an additional 3,500 USFK troops by year's end.

    Bush said he would ask the U.S. Congress to upgrade South Korea's foreign military sales status with the U.S. to give it the same access to U.S. military technologies as NATO and other key allies like Japan.

    The South Korean government reportedly decided to cooperate with the U.S. to jointly address global issues, such as nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a global coalition against terrorism. The two leaders urged North Korea to provide a full declaration of its nuclear programs and proliferation activities in a verifiable way. They agreed to do their best to realize the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs at an early date through the six-party talks. They also agreed on the importance of the human rights situation in North Korea.

    Asked by a reporter, "Do you have any intention to meet with both President Lee and Chairman Kim (Jong-il) in order to resolve this issue?" Bush said, "No."

    Asked his opinion of Lee, Bush said, "I like his spirit, I like his candor, and I like his optimistic vision. But most of all I really appreciate his values."

    Lee replied, "I thank you for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation by the people of America. We will work closely together with a future-oriented mind. And I promise you I will do my very best."

    Winding up his five-day visit to the U.S., Lee arrived in Japan on Sunday evening. He will return home after holding a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Monday.

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