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Published:April 18th, 2008 03:08 EST
President Bush, President Lee Myung-bak to talk Trade

President Bush, President Lee Myung-bak to talk Trade

By SOP newswire

A free-trade agreement will top the agenda Friday and Saturday when President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hold their first summit.

The two leaders will meet at Camp David outside Washington where Mr. Lee will be the first South Korean leader to visit the presidential retreat.

Washington and Seoul signed a free trade agreement last June, but that agreement is still awaiting legislative approval in both countries before it can go into effect.

Earlier this month, South Korean voters gave Mr. Lee's Grand National Party a parliamentary majority helping to clear the way for its passage there.

U.S. lawmakers have previously said they would not approve the deal until a dispute over beef was resolved. But today, South Korea's agricultural ministry announced it had agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef.

Beef imports were halted last October, after a shipment was found to contain animal parts banned due to concern over so-called "mad cow disease." Seoul's Agriculture Ministry says it will now allow the import of cattle younger than 30 months.

Separately, Mr. Lee told interviewers Thursday that he intends to propose to North Korea the establishment of a high-level diplomatic channel between Seoul and Pyongyang.

He also said each of the Koreas should open a liaison office in the other's capital.

A senior official of the U.S. National Security Council, (Senior director for Asian affairs) Dennis Wilder, says Mr. Bush and Mr. Lee are expected to discuss the six-party process to scrap North Korea's nuclear program.

Wilder also says the two leaders will discuss both the U.S. military presence in South Korea and the process of transferring more control over security to the South Koreans.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.