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Embassy Row

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'Strong alliance'

The South Korean ambassador is delighted that Congress recognized the "strong alliance" between his country and the United States, even if a resolution recognizing the relationship came more than 50 years after the end of the Korean War.

South Korea "has long held our alliance partnership with the United States in the highest esteem," Ambassador Lee Tae-sik said. "This is why we wholeheartedly welcome and are so deeply appreciative of the [resolution] that reaffirms the comprehensive and dynamic alliance partnership shared by our two nations. ... It acknowledges the deep ties and shared values of our two countries."

Mr. Lee also praised Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, for sponsoring the House resolution.

Thomas Kim, an adviser to the embassy, noted that the measure was the "first such resolution, believe it or not, on the alliance ever passed in the House."

Congress may have waited 54 years to get started on the resolution, but House members acted quickly after Mr. King introduced the measure on March 30. By May 23, the Foreign Affairs Committee sent the resolution to the House floor, where it won unanimous approval on June 11.

"For almost six decades, the United States and the Republic of Korea have maintained a strong alliance that rests on a shared commitment to peace, democracy and freedom, not only on the Korean Peninsula but throughout Asia and the rest of the world," Mr. King said on the House floor last week.

Mr. King also praised South Korea for its support in the war on terrorism and its efforts to get communist North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.

"Since September 11, 2001, we have seen this bond further strengthened, as [South] Korea has joined with the United States and other coalition nations in supporting the global war on terror both militarily and financially," Mr. King said, adding that President Roh Moo-hyun "truly understands this grave threat and the need for it to be confronted."

Mr. King noted that South Korea sent 1,200 troops to Iraq, making it the third-largest contingent of coalition forces after the United States and Britain, and has pledged $460 million in reconstruction aid to Iraq.

The resolution says the House "recognizes the strong alliance" between the two countries and "expresses appreciation" to South Korea for "its contributions to international effort to combat terrorism."

While the words of the resolution pleased South Korea, Mr. Lee and his government are anxiously awaiting congressional action on a proposed free-trade agreement with the United States.

Supporters say the pact will cut tariffs and trade barriers and boost economic growth in both countries, but opponents are mounting campaigns to kill the deal. In South Korea yesterday, thousands of farmers held rallies to denounce the trade pact and cited fears that U.S. agricultural products will flood the country.

Visa waiver

The European Union's man in Washington has been busy lobbying Congress to expand the visa-waiver program to include the 27 member nations.

Ambassador John Bruton's most recent foray on Capitol Hill included visits with six members of the California delegation, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who serves on key committees.

"The current system for issuing visas, where these are required, is expensive and time-consuming and bad for business," Mr. Bruton wrote in his weekly column on the EU Web site (www.eurunion.org). "The EU and the U.S. need to continue to work together to find the smartest ways to promote international travel, mobility and exchanges whilst simultaneously providing security for their citizens."

Mr. Bruton noted that all EU members issue secure passports that meet the requirements of the program, which now includes 14 EU nations, all in Western Europe.

The ambassador also met California members of the U.S. House: Democrats Barbara Lee and Zoe Lofgren and Republicans Mary Bono, Devin Nunes and George Radanovich.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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