PENTAGON - Friday’s visit of President Park Geun-hye to the White House marks the South Korean leader’s second visit to Washington since coming to office in 2013.
The visit will focus on South Korea’s economic, security and global issues while reiterating the “rock-solid” commitment to the U.S.-South Korea alliance, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday.
China’s role in the region will also be up for discussion.
“It’s about setting the strategic direction for the next five to 10 years,” according to Jim Schoff, a senior associate for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Asia Program.
Schoff said South Korea’s relationship with China and how that relationship “can that be beneficial to the alliance” going forward will dominate talks. He added that the two leaders might discuss the entry of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, missiles should North Korea continue to increase its missile capabilities.
Park told a Washington think tank audience Thursday evening that she would be open to a meeting with her Japanese counterpart that could help mend frayed relations between the two countries.
Park indicated that an upcoming three-way summit of Northeast Asia's leading powers might be an opportunity for a one-on-one formal meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "I do feel I can have such a meeting with him," Park told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
She expressed hope that such a meeting would lead to progress on the issue of comfort women — Korean women who were sexually assaulted by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
South Korea has sought an apology and compensation for surviving Korean victims.
"It's important that the two countries be able to move toward a more future-oriented change in our relationship," Park said.
The U.S. Defense Department threw an elaborate and rare “full honor parade” for Park upon her arrival Thursday at the Pentagon.
Her visit was seen as a strong symbol of the two countries’ close ties, after her attendance at a Chinese military parade last month sparked concerns about South Korea’s growing relationship with Beijing.
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Ash Carter reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance as the “linchpin of peace and security … across the Asia-Pacific” in his meetings with Park and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo.
The leaders discussed the importance of continued alliance cooperation and coordination to deter and potentially defend against North Korean threats.
Carter and Han agreed to establish an interagency working group to enhance cooperation on defense technology issues. The two focused on opportunities to increase alliance cooperation in space and cyberspace, according to the Pentagon.
"The secretary felt it was a great opportunity to once again reaffirm the alliance between the United States and South Korea and the ironclad commitment that the United States has to South Korea's defense," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.