Sen. Rubio to meet President Park in Seoul this week

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, one of the potential Republican presidential candidates, will visit South Korea this week for meetings with President Park Geun-hye and other senior officials, his office announced Sunday.

The Florida senator, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, plans to arrive in Seoul on Thursday. He will meet the South Korean president the next day.

Rubio is also scheduled to travel to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to meet with U.S. troops on the peninsula.

"On Friday, Rubio will speak about U.S. foreign policy in Asia at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul," his office said in a press release.

It quoted the senator as emphasizing the importance of Asia for the future of America's security and economic well-being.

"America must make sure that our rhetoric about increasing our presence in Asia does not come at the expense of enduring alliances and challenges in other parts of the world. The fact is that the United States has long been a Pacific power, and it is vital that we maintain our robust military and diplomatic presence in the region while adapting to new realities," Rubio said.

He will begin a week-long trip to Asia with a two-day visit to Japan from Monday, where he will hold a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior officials.

"On Wednesday, Rubio will review ongoing typhoon recovery efforts and visit with government officials in the Philippines, including President Aquino," said his office. "This is Rubio's first visit to Asia."

He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Despite his short career on Capitol Hill, he has gained growing popularity among Republicans. Media put him on a shortlist of the party's possible presidential candidates in the 2016 elections.

In 2013, Rubio gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address. He also introduced Mitt Romney at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

On North Korea, he has pressed the Obama administration to re-designate the communist nation as a state sponsor of terrorism for its alleged nuclear and missile ties with Iran and Syria.

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