GMA'S KOREA TRIP GOAL: NUKE-FREE ASIA

Manila, May 29, 2003 -- A week after returning from a state visit to the 
United States, President Arroyo will make a state visit to South Korea on 
June 2 to 4 where she will push for a nuclear-free Asia.

"The President will manifest... the initiative of the Philippines to play a 
strategic role in maintaining peace and stability and promote prosperity in 
Asia," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

In her visit to Seoul, Mrs. Arroyo is expected to discuss with South Korean 
President Roh Moo-hyun efforts to end the nuclear crisis between the 
reclusive Stalinist state of North Korea and the United States.

"One of the key points that would be discussed would be the question of the 
North Korean armaments because this is something very close to home," Bunye 
said. "We're within range of North Korean missiles."

He added that South Korea still values the assistance given by the 
Philippines in the 1950s during the Korean War and that South Korea 
considers the Philippines an ally.

The President's taking up the issue of North Korea's nuclear disarmament 
comes on the heels of US President George W. Bush's elevation of the 
Philippines to its new status as a "major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization) ally" or MNNA. This puts the Philippines on equal footing 
with Japan and South Korea, which also enjoy MNNA status with the US.

North Korea was included in Bush's list of nations in the "axis of evil," 
along with Iraq and Iran.

"What the President wants to happen is for a bigger core group within the 
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to really push for the 
non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the area," Bunye said.

Despite the withdrawal of Pyongyang from the nuclear non-proliferation 
talks, Bunye said, "we would like to have a union of like-minded countries 
and, perhaps, working together, we can exert some moral pressure on the 
North Korean regime."

Mrs. Arroyo will also meet with the estimated 33,700-strong Filipino 
community in South Korea, many of whom are staying there illegally, Bunye 
said.

He said the President is also expected to press for legislation granting 
more rights for migrant workers in South Korea.

"There's pending legislation before the Korean Assembly affecting the 
rights of foreign workers. So this would be a relevant topic for discussion 
for the two leaders," Bunye said.

While in Seoul, Bunye said, the President will witness the signing of two 
major business agreements with Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and 
Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co.

After her visit to Seoul, Mrs. Arroyo will proceed to Tokyo for a working 
visit from June 4 to 6, where she will attend an international business 
conference with fellow Southeast Asian leaders Malaysian Prime Minister 
Mahathir Mohamad and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Bunye said the President, along with Mahathir and Shinawatra, will address 
the Nikkei ninth International Conference on the Future of Asia.

She will also attend the Asian Leaders' Round Table for ASEAN-Japan 
Exchange Year 2003, he added.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo will also have a one-on-one meeting with Koizumi and 
the chief executive officers of the biggest Japanese firms, including 
carmakers Honda and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Japan's External Trade 
Organization.

The President is expected to press for more Japanese aid during the trip, 
Bunye said. (By Marichu Villanueva, Star)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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