U.S. President Barack Obama plans to visit South Korea in April for talks with President Park Geun-hye about the alliance between the two countries, North Korea's nuclear program and other issues, the White House said Wednesday.
The visit is part of a four-nation trip that also includes stops in Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, the White House said in a statement. With the full itinerary yet to be announced, he is expected to stay in South Korea for two days from April 23 following his trip to Japan, according to diplomatic sources in Washington.
While in South Korea, Obama "will meet with President Park to reaffirm the United States' commitment to a strong alliance, review recent developments in North Korea and our combined efforts to promote denuclearization, and discuss our ongoing implementation of the Korea-United States FTA," the White House said in a press release.
Obama's trip in April is part of "his ongoing commitment to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region," the White House said.
Washington has sought to rebalance its resources toward the region amid the growing presence of China.
In Seoul, the presidential office issued a statement welcoming Obama's planned visit.
"Our government anticipates that this visit will be a good opportunity for the two leaders to have in-depth discussions on moving the Korea-U.S. alliance forward and issues on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia and beyond," the statement said.
South Korea had originally not been on Obama's itinerary, raising concerns that it could send the wrong message that the U.S. is on Japan's side if he only visits Japan without coming to Seoul.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been badly strained as Japan refuses to address long-running grievances over sexual slavery and other atrocities committed during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea and its repeated claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
Last year, Obama canceled his trip to Asia due to the government shutdown. (Yonhap)