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Lee To Leave For U.S., Japan Tuesday

By Bernama,

Seoul : President Lee Myung-bak will on Tuesday head to the United States for a landmark Camp David summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, marking the first overseas trip since his inauguration in February, Yonhap news agency quoted the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae as saying Monday.

On arriving in New York Tuesday (American time), Lee will meet with American business leaders at a Korea roadshow and make a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, Cheong Wa Dae said. He will also meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a group of successful Korean-Americans before heading to Washington D.C. Wednesday.

Prior to the summit with Bush slated for Saturday, Lee plans to meet separately with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, a group of U.S. experts on the Korean Peninsula and American lawmakers in Washington. An interview with the Washington Post is slated for Thursday.

Cheong Wa Dae said Lee will be the first South Korean president to go to Camp David, an American presidential retreat near Washington D.C., since 1942. A Camp David summit symbolises an especially close relationship between the U.S. and the nation of the invited leader.

South Korea-U.S. relations turned sour during the presidency of Lee’s liberal predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, due to frequent clashes over North Korean nuclear and human rights issues. Since his election as president in December, however, the conservative Lee has vowed to restore relations and prioritize strengthening the military alliance with the U.S.

“Bush’s invitation of Lee to his mountain retreat Camp David reflects his personal trust in Lee. The summit is expected to help upgrade bilateral relations to a higher level,” presidential spokesperson Lee Dong-kwan said.

According to sources at Cheong Wa Dae, the Lee-Bush summit is expected to handle a long list of bilateral and international issues, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, burden-sharing for the realignment of U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. proposal for the redeployment of South Korean forces to Afghanistan, ratification of bilateral free trade agreement by respective legislative bodies and environmental, climate and energy problems.

On his way back home, Lee will visit Japan Sunday and Monday for summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, said Cheong Wa Dae.

Lee will arrive in Tokyo on the afternoon of April 20 and hold a summit with Fukuda to discuss ways to promote bilateral relations, resume shuttle diplomacy and strengthen two-way cooperation in environment, energy and other global issues.

Lee will also meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito and appear on a TV talk show together with Japanese youth, in addition to a meeting with Japanese business leaders for discussions on enhancing practical bilateral cooperation.

In a news conference in Seoul on Sunday, Lee vowed to closely cooperate with the U.S. in handling the North Korean nuclear problem and generate substantial results through his visits to the U.S. and Japan.

“The trips to the U.S. and Japan will mark the first step in my government’s bid to pursue pragmatic diplomacy. I’ll further deepen relations with traditional allies and exchange views on boosting the peace and co-prosperity of Northeast Asia,” said the president.

“I’ll ensure that my overseas trips won’t be merely ceremonial. I will instead seek to produce substantial results,” he added.