U.S. President Barack Obama has added South Korea to the itinerary for his upcoming trip to Asia.
The White House confirmed on Wednesday that the Asia trip is part of Obama's ongoing commitment to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Although no dates have been released yet, it's reported the president will visit Tokyo first from April 22nd to 23rd, then Seoul from the 23rd to the 24th.
During his stay in Seoul, the U.S. president plans to meet with President Park Geun-hye, where they are expected to reaffirm the two sides' alliance, review the security situation on the peninsula and discuss the Korea-U.S. free trade deal.
Now that Seoul is on the itinerary, speculation is rising as to whether President Obama will address the prickly relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
A number of disputes over history and territory have chilled relations between the two, especially after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine honoring convicted war criminals in December.
Obama may, however, choose to stay away from arbitrating the complex historical problems and territorial disputes between the two.
North Korea's nuclear program will top the agenda when Park and Obama meet, along with the timing of the transfer of wartime operational control of U.S. forces in South Korea from the U.S. to South Korea.
The transfer date was originally slated for next year, but South Korea has been pushing for a delay.
April will also be a critical time for trade negotiations.
Obama is expected to try to push to tie the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact that includes 12 nations, as Korean participation in the partnership could further cement a future trading order in Asia that would include North America.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News.