In Washington, Pres. Park working to reaffirm US alliance

Posted on : 2015-10-15 16:15 KST Modified on : 2015-10-15 16:15 KST
On official visit, Park retracing some of her father’s steps as she meets with officials and attends events
 Oct. 14. (Yonhap News)
Oct. 14. (Yonhap News)

President Park Geun-hye arrived in Washington, DC, on the afternoon of Oct. 13 for a four-day diplomatic visit.

Key themes for Park’s visit will include the South Korea-US alliance, coordination on North Korea, and expanding cooperation on “new frontiers,” the Blue House said. Sources said a particular focus would be on allaying concerns that Seoul has become too close to Beijing, with plans to show the alliance’s strength through a full schedule of diplomatic events besides Park’s summit with US President Barack Obama on Oct. 16.

Park kicked off her official US schedule on the morning of Oct. 14 with a visit to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. The visit was described by the Blue House as being a particularly meaningful occasion in 2015, which marks the twentieth anniversary of its opening.

During the visit, Park met with Korean War veterans to express appreciation. Around 120 people attended the event, including US Secretary of the Army John McHugh, former Combined Forces Command commander John Tilelli, Jr. (the eighth to hold the post) and current commander Curtis Scaparrotti, and numerous veterans.

Park appears to be following in her father’s shadow during the tour. On Oct. 14, she visited the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center for an astronaut welcome message and satellite robot demonstration. Her father, former President Park Chung-hee (1961-79), visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral during a visit as a guest of the state in 1965.

Park‘s accommodations for this trip are at Blair House, the official US state guest house where she also stayed during a May 2013 visit, and the same location where her father stayed during his 1965 visit. Park previously reminisced over her parents after finding their signatures in the Blair House guest book during her 2013 stay.

On the evening of Oct. 14, Park presided over a Korean-American Friendship Night event attended by around 700 major figures from South Korea and the US, where she stressed the importance of closeness between the two countries while working to dispel growing concerns in Washington circles that Seoul is being too close to China.

The event drew major attention, with numerous major diplomatic figures from the US in attendance. In addition to Secretary of State John Kerry, the list of attendees included current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller. Representatives from major US think tanks like the Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Heritage Foundation were also scheduled to attend the large-scale event, for a total of around 450 US attendees, including around 100 Korean War veterans.

“It’s an occasion for affirming the solid alliance between South Korea and the US,” the Blue House explained.

On her arrival at Andrew Air Force Base, Park was greeted by US Chief of Protocol Peter Selfridge, White House National Security Council Senior Director of Asian Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, and State Department Director for Korea Mark Lambert.

By Choi Hye-jung, staff reporter

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