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Bush Congratulates New South Korean President-Elect - 2002-12-19

President Bush has congratulated South Korea's president-elect, Roh Moo-hyun. The White House says it supports Mr. Roh's move to improve relations with North Korea.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush telephoned Mr. Roh Friday to congratulate him on winning South Korea's election. "The [US] president and the [South Korean] president-elect agreed to work closely together to promote peace on the Korean peninsula and to further strengthen the U.S.-South Korean alliance," he said.

Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Roh accepted the president's invitation to visit Washington at his earliest convenience.

Mr. Roh's election took place amid a surge of anti-American sentiment, fueled by the recent acquittals of two U-S soldiers, whose armored vehicle accidentally hit and killed two South Korean girls last June.

Mr. Roh wants more South Korean jurisdiction over the 37,000 U.S. troops in the country. The former human rights lawyer also wants closer ties with North Korea.

Mr. Fleischer said President Bush supports improved relations between the two Koreas, even as he is working with China, Russia, and Japan on a common approach to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.