U.S. Secretary of State
By Yoon Won-sup
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, attending the inauguration ceremony of President Lee Myung-bak Monday, said that South Korea and the United States have enjoyed a wonderful relationship and alliance.
``It is a relationship that has only deepened over the years because we share something very important. As much as we share strategic efforts, we certainly share common values,'' Rice told reporters.
She further said that the inauguration ceremony is a celebration for more than policy.
``It is an opportunity to celebrate peaceful transition in this democracy of South Korea,'' she said. ``It was a really wonderful and moving ceremony, a beautiful speech by the President.''
Rice looked happy with Lee's inaugural address, which stressed strengthened relations with the United States as the No. 1 priority of the nation's foreign policy. She expressed hopes for better Seoul-Washington relations and movement of the stalled six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Since North Korea failed to submit a list of all its nuclear weapons program by the end of 2007, the talks haven't made any progress toward denuclearization. In return for denuclearization, North Korea will receive economic aid and political concessions, such as the normalization of ties with the United States.
``I'm really quite honored to be here on behalf of the United States on this great day for a sovereign people,'' Rice said.
Meanwhile, she praised the musical performances at the inauguration. ``Of course, it's always great to hear the universal strengths of Beethoven performed so beautifully by a choir and orchestra,'' she noted.
Rice is a pianist, leading some to speculate she may attend the New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang today. But the U.S. Department of State flatly denied this speculation.
The New York Philharmonic concert is to take place at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater at 6 p.m. for 90 minutes and is the first-ever performance in North Korea by a U.S. orchestra.
The performance will be broadcast live, according to the New York Times. An official from the North Korean mission to the United States recently sent confirmation to the orchestra by e-mail.