October 14, 2011 13:06
The summit on Thursday between President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama was carefully timed to coincide with the ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA by American lawmakers. Lee said the FTA would become "a new engine of growth" for both countries.
Kim Tae-hyo, the presidential secretary for national security strategy, apparently made a secret visit to the U.S. in February and agreed with officials there to try and ratify the FTA by this summer. The two sides made plans for Lee's state visit and pledged to make everything is done to pass the trade pact by then.
The summit could not be finalized until September since both sides were watching the pace of their parliaments in ratifying the FTA. The date was set after U.S. officials established that the trade pact would be ratified by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The two leaders hope that their summit will now pressure the National Assembly to ratify the FTA as well.
The summit also dispelled fears that Seoul and Washington could shift their firm policy toward North Korea ahead of presidential elections next year. "We discussed ways of strengthening the approach and cooperation the two sides maintained in dealing with North Korea," a key Cheong Wa Dae official said. "The two leaders agreed that dialogue for the sake of dialogue would be meaningless unless the North makes some fundamental changes."
They believe North Korea could launch a provocation and agreed to prepare for the threat.
◆ Korean Food
After giving Lee a tour of the Tank Room, the wartime operational headquarters of the U.S., Obama gave an unofficial dinner for Lee at a Korean restaurant on the outskirts of Washington D.C. A formal White House dinner was originally scheduled, but Obama wanted a closer and more personal meeting and offered to eat in a restaurant frequented by Koreans. Rather than preparing a full-course Korean dinner, Obama ordered bulgogi or marinated beef barbecue, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose the mixed vegetable and rice dish bibimbap.
Obama gave up all of his time from Wednesday night until Thursday evening for Lee and will accompany the Korean president to Detroit on Friday.
◆ Support for Libya
Although it was not on the main agenda of the summit, Lee and Obama pledged to cooperate in Libyan development projects. The two leaders agreed to support democracy as well as offer assistance in economic reconstruction, training government administrators, building infrastructure, improving healthcare and offer job training. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "Many Korean companies operate in Libya, so we expect a lot of benefits from cooperation with the U.S. in assistance projects."
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