White House: South Korean president’s visit proves Asia focus

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The visit this week in Washington by South Korean President Park Geun Hye shows that the United States’ renewed focus on the Asia Pacific region is “alive and well,” US officials say.

Park will visit the White House on Friday for talks with President Barack Obama centred on US-Korean defence and economic cooperation and North Korea’s nuclear programme, said Daniel Kritenbrink of the White House’s National Security Council.

“This is a sign that our rebalance to the Asia Pacific is alive and well,” he said in a Wednesday briefing.

They will discuss other international issues including Islamic State and the Syrian refugee crisis, the conflict in Ukraine, and cooperation on global health, cyber-security, the environment and space.

Park is the fourth major Asian leader to visit this year, arriving just weeks after Obama welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The visit underscores the importance of US alliances in the region that “continue to provide important stability in a volatile world,” particularly on the divided Korean peninsula, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said.

Park’s visit to the White House will be her second following a formal state visit in 2013.

On Wednesday in Washington, she laid a wreath at the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall.

During a dinner with Park at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry noted the absence of a formal peace treaty with North Korea.

“It’s a tragedy that, unlike other conflicts that are commemorated on America’s National Mall, this one has never formally ended,” he said. “The need for vigilance, we all know, continues, and through the combined efforts of our two great countries, that vigilance is being met.”

He pointed to the contributions of more than 2 million Korean Americans living “in every single corner of our land. … Their economic and social contributions to America and to our bilateral relationship are profound.”

Park was forced to reschedule a June trip to Washington to deal with an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea.

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