GMA TO SEOUL FOR STATE VISIT TODAYManila, June 2, 2003 -- President Arroyo embarks on a three-day state visit to South Korea today to further strengthen ties between Seoul and Manila. The Philippines' concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons production will also be discussed. The June 2-4 Korean trip will be followed by a working visit to Japan from June 4 to June 6. Arroyo will leave Manila at 11:30 a.m. today "via a special aircraft." Her official delegation will take PAL flight PR 468. At least three bilateral agreements covering legal coordination, energy and finance are expected to be signed during the South Korean visit. Arroyo is expected to discuss with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun how to bring about a peaceful resolution to the North Korean issue. Defense, security and economic cooperation as well as the welfare of Filipinos in South Korea, including 18,253 undocumented workers, will also be on the agenda. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Arroyo wants a "bigger core group" within the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to push for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. "We would like to have a union of like-minded countries and perhaps (by) working together we could exert moral pressure on the North Korean regime," Bunye said He added that the North Korean nuclear weapons issue is a subject "close to home" because the Philippines is within the range of that country's missiles. Tonight Arroyo will meet with the Filipino community of 33,700 in Seoul. Tomorrow, she will lead a wreath laying ceremony at the National Cemetery. The official welcome ceremony takes place at the Blue House where the South Korean president lives. This will be followed by Arroyo's bilateral talks with President Roh and the signing of bilateral agreements. At lunch, she will meet with the leaders of Korean National Assembly and of business groups, including officials of the Korea Electric Power Corp. and Daewoo International. She will later witness the signing of several government and private agreements. The 40-person presidential delegation will be honored at the state dinner at the Cheong Wa Dee portion of the Blue House. Wednesday morning, Arroyo will again lay a wreath, this time at the Korean War Memorial Monument to the Philippine Armed Forces, which honors Filipinos who fought in the Korean War. That will be followed by the 19th Joint Meeting of the Korea-Philippines Economic Council. Ranking officials of Asiana Airlines will meet with Arroyo before she proceeds to a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Goh Kun, after which a press conference will be held. Arroyo will depart for Tokyo in a private jet, a Gulfstream G200, at 3:15 p.m. (Manila time) and is expected to arrive at the Haneda airport at 5:30 p.m. During the three-day Japan visit, Arroyo will meet with Japanese chief executive officers and deliver a speech before the Nikkei 9th International Conference on the Future of Asia. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra are also guest speakers. Arroyo will also attend the Asian Leaders' roundtable for the Asean-Japan Exchange Year 2003 and later meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. She will also receive calls from Osamu Watanabe, chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization, Rolf Eckrodt, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., officials of Honda Motors, and other major Japanese trading companies before returning to Manila on Friday night.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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