April 04, 2014 12:07
U.S. President Barack Obama will make an overnight visit to Seoul later this month. A government official told the Chosun Ilbo that U.S. president's visit to South Korea has been set for April 25 and 26.
Obama visits Japan for three days before heading to South Korea, then travel to Malaysia and the Philippines. Korea was originally left off the schedule, but Seoul argued this would send the wrong message to an increasingly chauvinistic Japan.
Obama and President Park Geun-hye are expected to discuss the strengthening of their countries' alliance, steps to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, and ways of ensuring the bilateral free trade agreement remains on track.
This is Obama's fourth visit to Seoul since his inauguration in 2009.
Obama also extended his trip to Tokyo from an overnight visit to three days. A diplomatic source in Washington said Tokyo "aggressively" lobbied to extend the visit. Obama needs the support of the Japanese government for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would cover almost 40 percent of the global economy and create a free trade zone reaching from North America to Japan and New Zealand. The signing of the TPP would mark a major milestone in Obama's second term in office.
The source added, "The Abe administration is believed to have prepared a significant gift" for the U.S. president's state visit, the first in 18 years.
The U.S. State Department has welcomed Japan's decision on Tuesday to ease curbs on arms exports even though neighbors see this as another step in Tokyo's campaign to erode the country's pacifist postwar constitution. Many see this as proof that the Japan-U.S. honeymoon continues unabated.
Some officials here believe the extension of Obama's Tokyo visit dampens Seoul's victory in getting him to come here at all. But others insist the length of the visit is immaterial and the alliance is strong.
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