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Pres. Lee Open to Obama-Kim Jong Il Meeting

Posted November. 18, 2008 03:10,   


President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday he is open to direct talks between U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

“I will further closely consult and cooperate with the U.S. government when the next U.S. administration takes office in dealing with the North`s nuclear program,” he told reporters in Washington.

After attending the Group of 20 financial summit in Washington, he held an interview with CNN and meetings with Washington-based correspondents on a variety of issues, including Seoul’s relationship with Obama`s new government, inter-Korean relations and the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

“In a phone conversation Nov. 7, President-elect Obama first made it clear that he will closely cooperate and consult with South Korea to help Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambition. If it helps the North to abandon its nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t be bad for President-elect Obama and (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il to meet face-to-face,” President Lee said.

President Lee also dismissed fears that an Obama-Kim meeting will further sour inter-Korean ties and alienate Seoul in international talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition. “We have a perfect relationship with the United States so no need to worry about it," he said.

The president stressed the need for more candid and open approaches in dealing with the North’s denuclearization, adding a face-to-face talk between Washington and Pyongyang should come within the framework of the six-party talks.

On the free trade agreement with Washington, he said, “Some Koreans presume that the two countries will renegotiate terms in the auto sector. President-elect Obama hasn’t moved that far at this moment. I sincerely hope the U.S. auto industry revives, but the U.S. should be careful not to violate (World Trade Organization) regulations by raising the specter of protectionism.”

Turning to the Korean parliament’s ratification of the agreement, President Lee urged taking advantage of the fast-track system, saying, “In the U.S., the Trade Promotion Authority allows Congress to vote yes or no without amendments and a trade deal takes effect immediately after ratification. In Korea, we must revise 23 to 24 laws even after ratification and so it will take significant time.”

President Lee left Washington later in the day for Sao Paolo, Brazil.

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