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Lee Visits White House on Heels of South Korea Trade Deal

1:10 p.m. ET | In a joint news conference, President Obama and President Lee also touched on the two nations’ military alliance, emphasizing the need for North Korea to halt its nuclear arms program. President Obama called it a “direct threat to the security of both our nations” and said “[t]he choice is clear for North Korea: If Pyongyang continues to ignore its international obligations, it will invite even more pressure and isolation. If the North abandons its quest for nuclear weapons and moves toward denuclearization, it will enjoy greater security and opportunity for its people,”

President Lee said the two nations “speak with one voice and we will continue to speak with one voice.”

The two leaders also emphasized the need for economic cooperation and job growth. President Lee is scheduled to accompany Mr. Obama to Detroit Friday.

President Barack Obama welcomes South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the White House. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

One day after Congress signed off on trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will be welcomed to the White House Thursday with a morning ceremony, a series of bilateral meetings, and a state dinner. President Obama called passage of the agreement “a major win for American workers and businesses.”

According to Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post:

The South Korea deal has the potential to create as many as 280,000 American jobs, according to a recent assessment by the staff of the U.S. International Trade Commission, and to boost exports by more than $12 billion. Several major labor unions have warned that any gains will come at the cost of layoffs among American workers because of heightened competition from South Korean imports.

The South Korea deal is widely hailed as the most consequential trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified in 1994.

In a statement ahead of his visit, the White House said: “This visit will highlight the strong alliance, the global partnership, and the deep economic ties between the United States and the Republic of Korea. The visit will also celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people.”

President’ Lee’s visit highlights not only the economic partnership between the United States and South Korea, but reaffirms strong military ties between the two nations. There are more than 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as part of a status of forces aimed at deterring North Korean aggression. The two nations held joint military exercises after the shelling of Yeonpyeong island last year. (View a series of NewsHour reports from the region.)

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