South Korea had its first real brush of contact with the incoming Obama
administration Friday. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak spoke on the phone
with his soon-to-be U.S. counterpart, President-elect Barack Obama. VOA's Kurt
Achin has more from Seoul.
President-elect Barack Obama told South Korean
President Lee Myung-bak Friday he has great admiration admiration for Korea and
The two spoke on the phone Friday morning in Seoul, mostly in
English without the aid of interpretation. President Lee's spokesman, Lee
Dong-gwan, says the two vowed to cement their countries' alliance of more than
half a century.
He says Mr. Obama assured Mr. Lee the U.S. and South
Korea are already close, but hopes to further advance the relationship. A
strengthened U.S.-South Korea alliance, said Mr. Obama, will lay a groundwork
for peace and security in Asia.
The United States stations about 28,000
troops here in South Korea, to deter or defeat any repeat of North Korea's 1950
Mr. Lee and Mr. Obama agreed to meet at the soonest possible
opportunity. That could come as early as next week, when both plan to attend a
Washington summit on the financial crisis hosted by President Bush.
Lee's main political opponent says he is looking forward to an Obama
administration. Chung Sye-kyun, chairman of South Korea's Democratic Party, says
he finds Mr. Obama's victory "encouraging."
He recalls Mr. Obama's
promise to be proactive in purusing dialogue with North Korea to resolve the
issue of the North's nuclear weapons.
Chung and his party support a
conciliatory policy toward the North, and have initiated most of the
inter-Korean aid and cooperation projects of the past ten years. They are
critical of both President Lee and President Bush for taking what they call a
"hardline" approach toward Pyongyang.
Former U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell, expected to be a senior foreign policy advisor to Mr. Obama, was
in Seoul Friday, and was scheduled to meet with President Lee. He said there was
no doubt in his mind Mr. Obama would have a "similar approach" to North Korea as
the Bush administration. He says President Obama will likely adhere to a
six-nation framework for addressing the nuclear issue, even though it is not
Diplomats from the United States and the two Koreas met late
Thursday night in New York. Senior North Korean envoy Ri Gun offered reporters
his own take on the American transition of power.
He says we have dealt
with many U.S. administrations so far, including those that managed to hold
talks with us and those that tried to isolate us. He says, we are ready to
respond to any administration's North Korean policies.