SEOUL — South Korea’s incoming president this week referred to Seoul’s alliance with the U.S. as a major contributing factor to the country’s prosperity and called for a “comprehensive strategic alliance” between the longtime allies.

“Looking back, I believe one of the most important elements behind the peace and prosperity” of South Korea was the “strong Korea-U.S. alliance,” Park Geun-hye was quoted as saying by Yonhap News. “Freedom and economic development that we enjoy now was not granted for free. They are the result of South Korea and the United States working together and overcoming challenges and difficulties together.”

Park’s comments came Wednesday following a meeting with a U.S. delegation that included Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Mark Lippert, and National Security Council Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel.

Park, who takes office next month, is expected to be a strong supporter of the South Korean-U.S. alliance and maintain current President Lee Myung-bak’s efforts to strengthen ties between the two.

However, she also favors more engagement with North Korea. She said Wednesday a number of “pending issues” remain between the two countries and will be resolved through dialogue based on trust, Yonhap reported.

A spokesman for Park said Thursday that the president-elect was referring to “North and South Korean issues” and “nuclear issues.”

In a briefing after Wednesday’s meeting with the U.S. delegation, spokeswoman Cho Yoon-sun said the president-elect will firmly oppose any North Korean efforts at nuclear development but will “leave the window open for dialogue, including humanitarian assistance.”

She said Park plans to consult closely with the U.S. on issues related to North Korea.

Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.

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