WASHINGTON -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye's first visit to the Pentagon on Thursday morning underscores her committment to Seoul’s alliance with the U.S. before she sits down for a summit at the White House.
Park’s planned visit to the military superpower’s core defense organ was seen as a way to show off their bilateral ties and that they remain unshaken by growing concerns over Seoul inclining toward Beijing.
She is set to hold a summit with her U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on Friday to discuss ways to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambition and to bolster the alliance to a higher level.
The Pentagon visit was to include a meeting with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to exchange their views on security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
Park is the second South Korean President to visit the Pentagon, after her predecessor President Lee Myung-bak.
Later in the afternoon, the South Korean leader was invited to the residence of U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden for an official lunch to reaffirm the solid alliance and forge fresh partnership for future. North Korea’s nuclear weapon and its provocative actions are expected to be on the agenda.
Since arriving in Washington on Tuesday, Park has been seeking a fresh momentum in the alliance to wipe off growing fears about Seoul’s cozy relationship with Beijing after she attended a Chinese military parade shunned by most of Western leaders.
At a friendship dinner on Wednesday evening, Park stressed that South Korea is a reliable partner of the United States, calling the alliance a core of Washington’s rebalancing strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region.
“South Korea and the U.S. are strongly bound to each other by common values and ideals of freedom, democracy and human rights,” Park said at a South Korea-U.S. friendship gathering in Washington.
“The alliance has been evolving and is dynamic, and together we are moving toward a brighter future.”
Secretary of State John Kerry chimed in saying that the bilateral partnership focuses on shared values in a wide range of fields.
“We also recognize that ours has to be a dynamic partnership that focuses, as our citizens do, on issues of the future and particularly issues like clean energy, the need to address the challenge of climate change, and ensuring that we have smart rules in place to guarantee the preservation of open space and also a reliable and secure Internet,” he said in a speech at the gathering.
Kerry also thanked Park for showing her commitment to the future, referring to her visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Center. Cheong Wa Dae said Park hopes to expand cooperation with the U.S. in space industry, particularly on South Korea’s plan to develop a homegrown space rocket by 2020.
In a separate meeting Park also called for close cooperation in research and development and engineering, stressing that Seoul is seeking innovation in manufacturing.
“The two countries can build up the technology and experiences that can lead to manufacturing innovation if they combine technology and excellent manpower,” Park said at a forum held to promote a bilateral partnership in the high-tech industry.
Park also called for strengthened cooperation with the U.S. in space, new energy as well as health care and other high-tech areas.
“I hope that South Korea will actively participate in space development” by signing a deal with the U.S. on space cooperation, Park said.
Consultations are underway between the two sides over a space cooperation agreement, according to the presidential office.
By Cho Chung-un, Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org