Fri, February 20, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Hillary Clinton kicks off Asian tour

Clinton arrives in Seoul for two-day visit

2009-02-19 13:32:46 GMT2009-02-19 21:32:46 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived here late Thursday to pay a two-day visit to South Korea.

Clinton arrived at the Seoul Airport around 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT) Thursday. South Korean officials, including South Korean Ambassador to Washington Han Duck-soo, greeted Clinton at the airport with a ceremony.

Clinton is set to meet with her South Korean counterpart Yu Myung-hwan on Friday morning and then hold a joint news conference.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said there were no official agenda set for the talks between Yu and Clinton.

Local media said the two diplomats are expected to exchange views over a range of issues, including the alliance between the two nations, policies on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea(DPRK), the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and the parliamentary ratification of their bilateral free trade agreement.

Clinton will also call on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo on Friday.

Clinton's visit to South Korea came amid mounting tension over the Korean Peninsula as a spokesman for DPRK's Army warned earlier on the day that Lee's administration will meet "the merciless and stern punishment by the army and people of the DPRK", saying Pyongyang was fully ready for "an all-out confrontation" with South Korea.

Local newspapers expected that the issues on DPRK will be the first priority in Clinton's talks with the South Korean foreign minister and the luncheon-meeting with President Lee Myung-bak.

"Clinton's visit to Seoul offers an opportunity for Washington and Seoul to coordinate their DPRK policies. A clear message that Washington will strengthen the strategic alliance with Seoul, as well as the U.S. security guarantee for the stability on the Korean Peninsula will help ease the tension," said Lee Tai-hwan, senior research fellow of the Sejong Institue, in an interview with Xinhua.

"The visit to Seoul will concentrate on security and diplomatic issues rather than economic problems," the research fellow added.

According to South Korean officials, Seoul hopes Clinton could push forward a South Korea-U.S. summit this year and help accelerate the parliamentary ratification of the free trade pact between the two nations.

Following U.S. President Barack Obama's decision of sending more troops to Afghanistan, Seoul will also positively extend its supports to U.S.-led reconstruction projects in Afghanistan in exchange for a further strong strategic alliance between them, South Korean officials said.

Clinton visited South Korea in 1993 and 1996 respectively as the first lady.

South Korea is the third leg of Clinton's four-nation Asian tour, which has already taken her to Japan and Indonesia.

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