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Park embarks on mission to upgrade U.S. alliance

WASHINGTON -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye started her official schedule Wednesday by paying tribute to Korean War veterans, embarking on her mission to upgrade the bilateral alliance with the U.S. amid growing concerns over a cozy relationship between Seoul and Beijing.

On her second day in Washington, Park laid a wreath at the Korean War Veterans Memorial -- a monument established to honor American soldiers who served in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Park’s visit to the memorial, a symbol of the strong alliance between Korea and the U.S., came in light of speculation that Seoul is seeking a bigger partnership -- both economically and politically -- with Beijing.

President Park Geun-hye visits the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington with U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh to pay tribute to American soldiers who served in the 1950-53 Korean War, Wednesday. Yonhap
President Park Geun-hye visits the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington with U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh to pay tribute to American soldiers who served in the 1950-53 Korean War, Wednesday. Yonhap


Her visit to Chinese festivities last month, as the only leader among U.S.-allied countries, further stoked anxiety over the bilateral ties between Seoul and Washington. Park’s agenda, which includes a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama and her first visit to Pentagon, in this respect, is expected to highlight her will to demonstrate that the alliance with the U.S. remains firm.

During her one-on-one meeting with Obama on Friday, Park is also expected to press the U.S. president on bringing his focus back on North Korea’s nuclear ambition.

Experts have been calling for her to increase international attention and pressure on the reclusive regime to halt its nuclear weapon development as well as its provocative actions.

To renew economic ties and seek wider cooperation in future industries, she  visited the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center later in the day. She also attended a forum on high-tech industry and a dinner session to commemorate the friendship between the two countries.

The visit is significant in economic aspects as well, as Park is seeking new economic partnerships with the U.S. and is being accompanied by a large number of business delegates.

A total of 166 business tycoons arrived in Washington, three times bigger than the business group she brought during her first official trip in 2013. Shifting the focus from traditional fields of business, Park is expected to expand the range of economic alliances to new industries -- such as space, bio and renewable energy.

Upon her arrival at the Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon, the South Korean leader was greeted by three U.S. officials before heading to the Blair House, a state guest house near the White House. The list of officials included Peter Selfridge, United States Chief of Protocol, and Daniel Kritenbrink, National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs.

On Thursday, Park is set to make her first visit to the Pentagon since her inauguration and to attend a luncheon hosted by Vice President Joe Biden at his residence. The president will also have a roundtable with economic leaders and a visit to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

By Cho Chung-un, Korea Herald correspondent (christory@heraldcorp.com)



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