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Boehner invites President Lee to address Congress next week

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner Friday extended a formal invitation for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to address a joint session of Congress next week, citing the importance of the time-honored alliance between the two nations.

“The American and South Korean peoples share deep ties rooted in history and common values. The Republic of Korea has been a strong ally and partner in promoting democracy, advancing economic freedom, and combating nuclear proliferation. It would be an honor to have President Lee, a steadfast friend of the American people, address the United States Congress," Boehner said in a statement.

Lee is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for a four-day state visit. He plans to hold summit talks with President Barack Obama on Thursday. Boehner asked Lee to deliver a speech to Congress later Thursday.

If he accepts the invitation, Lee would become the first South Korean president to address the U.S. Congress in 13 years. The late Kim Dae-jung delivered a speech to Congress in 1998.

Lee is expected to express his gratitude to Congress for its efforts to help strengthen the Seoul-Washington alliance, especially its bipartisan push to ratify a bilateral free trade agreement.

Both the Senate and the House are widely expected to pass the accord, signed in 2007, next week.

The White House, meanwhile, said Lee's upcoming visit reflects the "strong bonds of friendship" between the two sides.

"This visit will highlight the strong alliance, the global partnership and the deep economic ties between the United States and the Republic of Korea," press secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing. "The visit will also celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people."

(Yonhap News)