South Korean President Park Geun-hye is currently in the United States, her first foreign visit since assuming office. Park will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, attend a special dinner to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and address a joint session of Congress, among other activities. She will also travel to New York and Los Angeles, but not to other countries, underscoring the trip’s significance.
The visit signals Park’s desire to reaffirm the policy of her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who made relations with the United States his highest priority. That helped bilateral ties recover from strains under previous South Korean leaders during the presidency of George W. Bush. Obama and Lee had a remarkably good personal relationship, something Park would like to replicate.
Despite her rhetoric of seeking greater engagement with Beijing, Park’s foreign policy is clearly focused on the U.S.-South Korean alliance. Indeed, strengthening the alliance is a key aspect of Park’s strategy of promoting progress on the North Korea issue while enhancing regional security, by building trilateral trust and cooperation among China, the United States and South Korea.