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Lee, Obama to Pursue `Grand Bargain` for NK Nukes

Posted November. 20, 2009 08:47,   


President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed yesterday to jointly pursue the former’s “grand bargain” proposal to resolve North Korea’s nuclear program in one stroke instead of phases.

At the presidential office in Seoul, both leaders also held in-depth discussion on ratification of a bilateral free trade agreement signed two years ago.

President Lee mentioned the possibility of additional negotiations if the automotive industry blocks implementation of the accord, signaling a turning point in the stalled ratification process.

On his country’s willingness to further open up its auto market, the South Korean leader told a joint news conference, “We have reached a free trade agreement with the European Union, which has big car manufacturers. The EU exports 50,000 cars to Korea.”

“If the automotive issue is a problem in the U.S., we’re willing to talk about it.”

President Lee also stressed the need for the deal’s early ratification, saying, “Each industry has a different position on the free trade agreement with the U.S. In Korea, the service and agricultural sectors still oppose it. From the broader perspective, however, it is beneficial for both countries.”

On this, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said, “President Lee didn’t mean additional negotiations or renegotiation, just that we’re willing to listen to U.S. concerns.”

Obama said the two countries recognize that the agreement can strengthen bilateral ties not only economically but also strategically, but that what concerns the U.S. most is the growing imbalance in bilateral trade.

The U.S. trade deficit with South Korea is not salient but Congress tends to treat all Asian countries the same, he said, adding that American companies and the American people will strive to create a win-win situation by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each individual country.

On North Korea’s nuclear program, President Lee said, “We fully shared the view that the North Korean nuclear issue requires a definite and comprehensive resolution, as I described in my ‘grand bargain’ proposal, and agreed to closely consult on elaborating and implementing this approach.”

To this, Obama said the two countries fully agreed to a common approach on the matter. He added that he will send former U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Stephen Bosworth, who is now Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth, to Pyongyang next month to begin bilateral talks with the communist country.

Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will provide economic aid to North Korea and help it join the international community only after it keeps its obligations and renounces its nuclear program through concrete and irreversible measures.

The two leaders also reaffirmed a strong defensive alliance, including the U.S. provision of an extended nuclear umbrella. They agreed to hold a bilateral meeting of their foreign and defense ministers next year to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

After the summit, Obama had lunch with President Lee, visited the U.S. Army base in Seoul`s Yongsan district, and boarded a flight home.