Obama, South Korea’s Lee hail ties on state visit
US: Amid the pageantry of a state visit, President Barack Obama and
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Thursday hailed a free trade deal
finally backed by the US Congress as a win for both nations.
Standing side-by-side, with their close friendship on show, the
leaders also spoke with “one voice” on North Korea, warning the
Stalinist state faced even deeper isolation if it continued provocations
and its nuclear program.
Obama welcomed Lee to the White House with trumpets and military
honors hours after Congress endorsed a bilateral free trade pact signed
during the Bush administration but held up by politics and market access
“It’s a win for both our countries,” Obama said, arguing the deal
would boost American exports by up to $11 billion and support 70,000 US
Under severe political pressure as the US recovery stutters and with
unemployment at 9.1 percent, Obama said the deal would help US
automakers and open Korean agricultural, aerospace and electronics
Using the same script, Lee also described the deal as “a win for both
of our countries” billing the deal as a “historic achievement” that
would further cement the 60-year alliance between Seoul and Washington.
He said he was confident the pact would also be ratified by South
Korea’s parliament in the “near future.”
The leaders did not break new ground on North Korea, but their firm
friendship, and the similarity of their language, reflected an
apparently watertight US-South Korean stance towards Pyongyang.
“Together we’ve succeeded in changing the equation with the North, by
showing that its provocations will be met not with rewards but with even
stronger sanctions and isolation,” Obama said.
“If Pyongyang continues to ignore its international obligations, it
will invite even more pressure and isolation,” he said, but promised
more opportunity if North Korea abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons.
Lee said after private Oval Office talks with Obama and an expanded
meeting with delegations, that on North Korea, the two governments
“speak with one voice and we will continue to speak with one voice.”
High tensions flared last year when Seoul accused the North of
torpedoing one of its warships, killing 46 people, and last November the
North bombarded a frontier island further enflaming ties with the south.
But last month, the two Koreas held a second round of talks designed
to pave the way for a resumption of six-nation talks on the North’s
nuclear program and US and North Korean officials met in New York in
Another meeting is expected soon, though it is not clear if either
side believes tangible process is possible, or fear they need to
mitigate a possible new round of provocations from Kim Jong-Il’s hermit
Lee also touched on North Korea in an address to a joint session of
Congress, saying the six party talks also including Russia, the North,
Japan and China were the best way to forge “tangible” progress.
“We are in full agreement that we must also pursue dialogue with
“However, we must also maintain our principled approach,” Lee said,
according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Later Lee arrived back at the White House for a state dinner for
around 200 guests in the ceremonial East Room, which was decorated in
fall colors. AFP