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SKorea, US leaders to try reconcile views on North

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, Sep 10 (Reuters) When South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun meets US President George W Bush later this week in Washington, the two will try to resolve differences in managing North Korea, which has strained ties between the allies.

The two countries are facing challenges to three pillars of their relationship -- economic, security and political ties.

Analysts are wondering just how much common ground can be found at the summit on Thursday.

The Roh and Bush administrations have at times come into conflict on just how much pressure to put on North Korea, which defied international warnings by test-firing seven missiles in July and may be preparing for a nuclear weapons test.

''The South Korea-US alliance is in a crisis,'' said Kim Seung-hwan, senior associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Apart from North Korea, the two will discuss negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement and a plan for which Roh has come under severe criticism at home that calls for South Korea to take over wartime command of its troops from the United States.

US and South Korean officials have stressed they are on the same page. The US point man for North Korea will visit Seoul prior to the Roh-Bush summit to help smooth over differences.

''I do not think we have differing opinions on the importance of US-Korean relations,'' South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month.

''The presidential Blue House, Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry may have different opinions regarding the details but the government will find consensus among these opinions,'' Ban said at a media forum in Seoul.

Reuters DKA VP1118

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