GLORIA SKEDS VISITS TO KOREA, U.S., JAPAN

Manila, April 20, 2003 -- President Arroyo has accepted an invitation for 
her to embark on a state visit to South Korea and another working trip to 
Japan.

Malacañang has, in fact, started the preparations for the President’s state 
visit to Seoul, South Korea, which comes after her state visit to the 
United States in the second week of May, The STAR learned yesterday.

The President will resume her scheduled foreign trips after she postponed 
last month previously set state visits to three European capitals and the 
US due to the US-led war in Iraq.

Palace sources told The STAR that the President will discuss with her South 
Korean counterpart Roh Mooh-hyun "issues of mutual interest" to both 
governments.

On top of the agenda of the talks between the two leaders is the security 
situation in the region due to tension in the Korean peninsula, said the 
Palace official.

North Korea has pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and has 
admitted, in response to accusations from the United States last October, 
that it has a nuclear weapons development program.

"Of particular concern is the developing situation in the Korean 
peninsula," a Palace source said.

North Korea, together with Iraq and Iran, has been tagged by US President 
Georscribed as the "axis of evil"  countries that are developing weapons of 
mass destruction.

"So it is likely that the Iraq situation as well as the war against 
terrorism would also be part of the official talks between the two 
presidents, since the Philippines and South Korea are close allies in the 
region," the same Palace sources said.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier joined the call of the world community for North Korea 
to return to the negotiating table for talks on the nuclear 
non-proliferation treaty.

However, a major breakthrough emerged early this week  there are reports 
that US officials will start negotiations in Beijing with North Korea and 
China to try to resolve the nuclear standoff through multilateral dialogues 
on the dispute.

While on a three-day state visit in Seoul, Mrs. Arroyo and Roh are expected 
to witness at least three bilateral agreements, the Palace sources added.

One is a treaty on criminal issues between the two countries and the 
second, a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of two 
vocational training centers in Luzon and the Visayas by the Korean 
Organization for International Cooperation Agency.

The third agreement will deal with the development of energy sources in the 
Philippines. South Korea has a significant number of power projects in the 
country.

 From Seoul, the President will fly to Tokyo for a speaking engagement on 
June 5 organized by Nikkei.

Mrs. Arroyo has time and again defended her frequent visits to Japan, 
citing that it is the prime source of official development assistance as 
well as investments and tourism in the country.

She went on a working visit to Tokyo twice in 2001 and twice last year, 
upon the invitations issued by major Japanese media organization.

Mrs. Arroyo’s most recent trip to Japan was on a state visit from Dec. 10 
to 14 last year.

Mrs. Arroyo’s first foreign trip this year took her to Kuwait for an 
overnight visit last February, a month before the war erupted in Iraq, to 
check on the Philippine government’s contingency plans for the 1.4 million 
Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East.

The President went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month, where she spoke at 
the Leaders’ Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to make last-ditch appeals 
for a peaceful resolution to calls for Iraq’s disarming of its weapons of 
mass destruction. (Star)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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