President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday discussed early ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade pact with a team of five U.S. Republican senators led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. McConnell (Kentucky) had attended Lee’s meetings with the U.S. senate leadership during his U.S. visits in 2008 and 2009, according to Lee’s spokesperson Kim Hee-jung.
Lee also spoke with Senators Mike Johanns (Nebraska), John Hoeve (North Dakota), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Jerry Moran (Kansas).
President Lee Myung-bak heads for a lunch with U.S. Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (second from right) and Rep. Chung Mong-joon (right) of the ruling Grand National Party, chief of the Korea-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Council, Tuesday at Cheong Wa Dae. (Yonhap News)
Lee exchanged views with the U.S. senators on the two countries’ security ties, pending free trade agreement as well as recent developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula, Kim said.
Noting that the bilateral alliance was growing stronger than ever, Lee called on the U.S. Congress for continued interest and efforts
“President Lee and the senators agreed that it was most important for the two allies to join efforts in dealing with issues related to North Korea,” Kim said.
Seoul has maintained its position that it will not return to the six-nation nuclear talks unless the North admits and apologizes for the attacks on the naval ship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island last year, which killed 50 South Koreans.
Washington officials have repeatedly confirmed that they were “on the same page with South Korea” in terms of issues related to North Korea.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband had supported Seoul’s engagement under past liberal administrations, made no direct mention on North Korea during her visit to Seoul last weekend.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com