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Korea, U.S. to discuss ways to boost alliance

President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged Wednesday to upgrade the Korea-U.S. alliance to tackle North Korean threats and security uncertainties during a meeting with senior U.S. officials.

The president-in-waiting met with Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and four other officials in her Seoul office.

During the meeting, Campbell told her that he brought with him a “road map for Korea-U.S. relations” and wanted to have a productive discussion with members of the presidential transition committee.

With their alliance marking its 60th anniversary this year, Park requested joint efforts to deepen trust between the two countries to forge a “21st-century comprehensive strategic alliance.” 
President-elect Park Geun-hye meets Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in her office Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
President-elect Park Geun-hye meets Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in her office Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

She also called on the U.S. to map out ways to reach a breakthrough in listless discussions over nuclear waste management. Their nuclear energy pact blocks Seoul from reprocessing spent fuel on security concerns but resulted in a massive radioactive waste buildup here.

“I will visit the U.S. and build trust with President Obama. As he launches his second-term administration and Korea’s new government sets sail, I hope the long-solid relationship will advance even further through united efforts,” Park said.

Campbell delivered to the president-elect messages from her U.S. counterpart Barack Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Park reiterated her pledge for a firm response to the communist regime’s nuclear development. But in light of its impoverished people, she said she would “leave open the window of dialogue and begin the trust-building process in close consultation with Washington.”

Campbell arrived here Tuesday along with Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council; Mark Lippert, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs; James Zumwalt, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and Sung Kim, U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

The group also met with Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun. They will touch down in Tokyo later in the day.

At a news conference earlier, Campbell said his trip is partly aimed at cranking up coordination between the two countries’ foreign policy teams.

Washington is “very comfortable with the interactions” with the incoming government here, which is fleshing out Park’s reengagement approach toward the wayward neighbor, he said.

“We have every confidence that the United States and South Korea will maintain the closest possible partnership in coordination with respect to diplomacy towards North Korea,” Campbell told reporters.

On discussions over U.N. Security Council action against Pyongyang’s Dec. 12 rocket launch, developments will come to light “in the days ahead,” he said.

Campbell also urged South Korea and Japan ― two U.S. allies ― to mend ties strained by territorial and historical brawls.

He reaffirmed Washington’s resolve to “engage positively with our friends in Beijing, to ensure relations between Japan and South Korea on an upward trajectory and to underscore generally the strong determination of the second Obama administration to maintain our deep commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.”

Campbell is one of the architects of the U.S.’ “pivot” to Asia strategy and expected to resign soon alongside Clinton, who is to be succeeded by Sen. John Kerry.

Park, who takes office in Feb. 25, will likely appoint a foreign minister and other key diplomatic posts in the coming few weeks.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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