Tuesday, April 15, 2008

First the Pope. Now who else is coming?

So Washington, DC is quite the place to be in this week. The blooming Cherry Blossoms. The Pope celebrating mass at Nationals Stadium. And finally, ROK President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the White House on April 18-19.

This article in Bloomberg.com outlines Mr. Lee’s agenda, and you know the two main topics to be discussed will be the KORUS-FTA and North Korea’s nuclear program.
Because Lee promised to revitalize the ROK economy during his campaign, he certainly has to be concerned over recent protectionist actions and rhetoric coming from US Congress and presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, especially after the House rejected the Colombia FTA. In my opinion, I hope Congress and the next administration will look beyond the economic implications of this FTA and think more broadly of the security benefits of a strengthened US-ROK alliance. Also on the table will be the issue of what to do with the pesky North. Mr. Lee’s firmer stance on the DPRK is certainly a welcome change for President Bush, who was at odds with Roh Moo Hyun’s engagement policies. However with Bush’s lame-duck status, our presidential candidates have yet to express their strategies in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. At any rate, it should be interesting to hear the statements coming out of the North following Mr. Lee’s visit to the White House and his subsequent stop in Japan on April 21-21.

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