(dpa) - South Korean President Lee Myung Bak departed Tuesday for visits to the United States and Japan on his first overseas trip since his inauguration in February.
On Sunday, South Korea's new conservative leader said the visits would be his government's "first step toward pragmatic diplomacy."
In a televised speech he said: "We will be looking to further improve relations with traditional allies and exchange views on how to bring peace and prosperity for north-east Asia."
The primary topics on the agenda at talks with US President George W Bush, slated for Saturday, are to be the strengthening of the US-South Korean alliance, the signed but not-yet-ratified free trade agreement between the two nations and work to end North Korea's nuclear programmes, Lee's office in Seoul said.
Lee is to meet Bush at the Camp David presidential retreat in the state of Maryland. Lee would become the first South Korean president to be a guest at the retreat outside Washington.
On Tuesday, Lee is scheduled to meet business leaders in New York and to visit the New York Stock Exchange. Prior to the summit with Bush, Lee plans to meet separately with US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington.
On his way back to Asia, Lee is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Tokyo on April 20, with the main topics of their talks to be the resumption of free trade negotiations and cooperation on environmental issues, Lee's office said.
On his February 25 inauguration, Lee met with Fukuda in Seoul, and the two leaders agreed to resume the shuttle diplomacy that had seen the heads of South Korea's and Japan's governments exchange regular visits.