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(LEAD) Park to visit U.S. in May on first overseas trip as president
SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit the United States on her first overseas trip as president, and the two countries are working on details to set up the trip for early May, the presidential spokesman said Tuesday.

   When Park will make her first overseas trip as South Korea's president and whether the destination will be the U.S. has been a focus of media attention amid speculation that she may visit China first ahead of Washington.

   Park "plans to visit the United States at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and South Korea and the U.S. are conducting discussions with an early May visit in mind," presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said during a regular press briefing.

   "The U.S. visit will be the first overseas trip since President Park Geun-hye took office, and this (decision) was made after taking the recent Korean Peninsula situation and the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance that is marking its 60th anniversary into account," Yoon said.

   Earlier in New York, U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon also said that Park is expected to visit Washington in May.

   The order of first presidential trips is considered important, as the first destination could symbolize the importance South Korea puts on the chosen country. Previous presidents have all selected the U.S., South Korea's No. 1 ally, as the destination for their first overseas trips.

   South Korean presidents have usually made visits to the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, collectively referred to as the "four powers," ahead of other nations. The four countries are also members of the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs.

   Also in May, Park is expected to hold annual summit talks in Seoul with leaders of Japan and China. The three countries have held a cooperation summit every year, and it is South Korea's turn to host the session. Japanese Prime Minister Sinzo Abe and China's incoming Premier Li Keqiang are expected to attend the meeting.

   jschang@yna.co.kr
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