Obama, South Korean leader toast close ties at state dinner

President Barack Obama and his South Korean counterpart hailed a new trade deal and close ties between the two countries at a state dinner Thursday night at the White House.
South Korea President Lee Myung-bak visits Washington a day after Congress passed a trade deal between the two countries
South Korea President Lee Myung-bak visits Washington a day after Congress passed a trade deal between the two countries

While Obama spoke of the strong bonds, President Lee Myung-bak said he will win over American critics of the pact, which was approved by Congress Wednesday.

The agreement is believed 'going to create a lot of good, decent jobs for the people of America.'

The two leaders exchanged toasts in the East Room, which was adorned with apples and other fall decorations.

President Obama praised the Senate's confirmation Thursday of Sung Y. Kim as the first Korean-American ambassador to South Korea.

President Lee spoke of his personal friendship with President Obama and the debt his country has to the United States for its sacrifices in the Korean War.

The two leaders earlier Thursday said the trade agreement is promising for both economies.

President Obama said he will sign it in the coming days.

'In short, this agreement will boost American exports by up to $11 billion and support some 70,000 American jobs. It has ground-breaking protections for labor rights, the environment and intellectual property, so the trade is free and fair. It will promote green jobs and clean energy, another area where we're deepening our cooperation. And it keeps us on track to achieve my goals of doubling American exports,' President Obama said.

President Lee said he is 'confident that the Korean National Assembly will soon ratify this very important agreement in the near future. It is a historic achievement that will become a significant milestone in our 130-year relationship.'

'This agreement will create more jobs, generate more trade and stimulate our economies. This free trade agreement will bring numerous benefits to our workers, our companies, our small businesses, and our consumers alike,' President Lee added.

The two presidents also said they will continue to co-operate on efforts with respect to North Korea.

'We agree that North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a serious threat to peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the world. We will continue to work towards denuclearization in the peninsula,' President Lee said.

Earlier, at a welcoming ceremony, Obama hailed Lee as a 'good friend and partner.'

'Our two nations have stood together for more than 60 years,' President Obama said. 'Over the past two years, we've deepened our co-operation. Today, I'm proud to say the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea is stronger than it's ever been.'