On a four-day visit to Washington, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made the case for joining the US-led Pacific trade deal. The accord was signed by the US, Japan and 10 other countries last week.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday, Park said that South Korea was a "natural partner" for the bloc. The country had initially opted out of signing the agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
"Korea welcomes the TPP agreement reached last week," Park said in her address. "Having already signed trade agreements with 10 of the 12 TPP member countries, I believe Korea is a natural partner for the TPP."
TPP signatories are the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The pact will reduce trade barriers, set labor and environmental standards and protect the intellectual property of multinational corporations.
South Korea has not yet signed the TPP and has been involved in an alternative, Chinese-led agreement. Seven TPP signatories - Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei - are also reported to be involved in the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Washington and Seoul have a bilateral free trade agreement which has been in effect since 2012.
White House lunch
On her second visit to the US capital since 2013, Park will meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday.
According to a White House statement, the two presidents will "exchange views on a broad range of security, economic and global issues, including the US-South Korean alliance and the critical role it plays in assuring regional stability and security."
Park has so far declined to agree to South Korea hosting a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile system for the US. China has been extending its military influence in the region and has strong ties with North Korea.
North and South Korea have remained technically in a state of war since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. About 30,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea, a presence which dates back to the United Nations force which repelled an attack from North Korea in 1950.
jm/cmk (Reuters, AFP)