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(2nd LD) Obama due in Seoul for talks with Lee MB over N. Korean nukes, more: White House

All Headlines 04:50 October 08, 2009

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 14-16)
By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will visit South Korea in mid-November to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on North Korea's nuclear dismantlement, enhancing the alliance and other issues, the White House said Wednesday.

Obama will fly to Seoul on Nov. 18 for a two-day stay just after attending the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore on Nov. 13-15, spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The itinerary of Obama's Asian trip, the first since his inauguration in January, also includes stops in Tokyo on Nov. 12-13 and Beijing on Nov. 15-18.

"The president will visit Seoul, South Korea, on November 18th through the 19th," Gibbs told a daily news briefing. "This visit will provide an opportunity to hold his third bilateral meeting with President Lee and consult on North Korea, to coordinate on a range of regional and global issues and to further strengthen the U.S.-Korean alliance. The president also looks forward to meeting with U.S. servicemen and women stationed in Korea."

Obama's Seoul trip is his first, although he invited Lee to Washington in June. The two leaders also met in London in April on the sidelines of the G-20 economic summit to address the global economic meltdown.

Lee phoned in November last year to congratulate Obama on his election as U.S. president and placed another call in February regarding his inauguration. Obama telephoned Lee in May to discuss North Korea's denuclearization soon after the North conducted its second nuclear test, after one in 2006.

Obama is also supposed to visit Seoul in November next year when South Korea hosts the fifth G-20 summit.

The announcement on Obama's Asian trip comes amid a flurry of diplomacy to persuade North Korea to come back to six-party talks on ending its nuclear ambitions.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao flew to Pyongyang Monday to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in the first such trip by a Chinese prime minister in 18 years.

Kim told Wen that Pyongyang is ready to rejoin the six-party talks depending on the outcome of bilateral talks with Washington.

North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests earlier in the year, demanding bilateral negotiations with the U.S. for a breakthrough.

U.S. officials have said they will decide on a possible trip to Pyongyang by Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, after Wen's trip to the North Korean capital.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly welcomed Wen's Pyongyang trip as "efforts which we hope we will lead to our shared goal of the resumption of the six-party talks leading to the denuclearization of the peninsula."

Kelly said U.S. diplomats in Beijing were briefed by China about Wen's Pyongyang trip, although he said, "I'm not going to get into the details of it."

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will visit Beijing early next, the spokesman said.

Campbell is expected to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue while in Beijing for two days through Tuesday, another official said, adding that Campbell will also be traveling to Tokyo Sunday on the North Korean nuclear issue and the status of American forces in Japan.

Kelly repeated the U.S. position on the bilateral talks with North Korea, saying, "We're open to it. But we are only open to a kind of a bilateral dialogue that would lead to the resumption of six-party talks."

The U.S., however, has not yet made a decision on Bosworth's trip to the North, the spokesman said.

"We haven't made any decision on whether or not to have these bilateral talks," he said. "We are still in the process of deliberations here in Washington, and we're still on a process of consulting with our partners on how to organize these talks. And that's why we haven't made the decision yet."

hdh@yna.co.kr
(END)

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