"Since late 2008, relations between the United States and South Korea (known officially as the Republic of Korea, or ROK) have been arguably at their best state in decades. By the middle of 2010, in the view of many in the Obama Administration, South Korea had emerged as the United States' closest ally in East Asia. Of all the issues on the bilateral agenda, Congress has the most direct role to play in the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Congressional approval is necessary for the agreement to go into effect. Presidents Obama and Lee Myung-bak have announced their desire to resolve U.S. concerns over market access for autos and beef by the time they meet again in Seoul during the November 2010 Group of 20 (G-20) meeting. Obama said that he intends 'in the few months' after the November meeting to present Congress with the KORUS FTA's implementing legislation. If approved, the agreement would be the second largest FTA market in which the United States participates, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The two countries' coordination over policy towards North Korea has been particularly close. The Obama and Lee Administrations have adopted a medium-to-longer-term policy of 'strategic patience' that involves three main elements: refusing to return to the Six-Party Talks without an assurance from North Korea that it would take 'irreversible steps' to denuclearize; gradually attempting to alter China's strategic assessment of North Korea; and using Pyongyang's provocations as opportunities to tighten sanctions against North Korean entities."
CRS Report for Congress, R41481
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