Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Nuclear summit: '[Obama's] got my room!' - Key

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, and US President Barack Obama. Photo / AP
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, and US President Barack Obama. Photo / AP

As if it wasn't enough that US President Barack Obama scuppered New Zealand's chances of a swift free trade deal with South Korea, the President has gone one step further and nicked Prime Minister John Key's hotel suite.

Mr Key stayed in the Hyatt's presidential suite the last time he was in South Korea in July 2010.

However, this time there was someone ahead of him in the queue - Mr Obama.

He arrived in Seoul on Air Force One yesterday morning and was taken out to visit US troops in the demilitarised zone.

Asked if he had bumped into Mr Obama yet, Mr Key said he would have a bone to pick with him when they did.

"He's got my room. I guess they don't call it the presidential suite for nothing."

He was hopeful they would bump into each other. "I might see him in the gym tomorrow morning."

Of the 54 countries attending the Nuclear Security Summit, about five delegations are at the Hyatt, putting its red carpet on high rotate.

The presence of Mr Obama ensured security was at a maximum around the hotel, and while Mr Key's media pack consists of two reporters, the President's is closer to 30.

Mr Key did have some other friends to console him. He was due to have a beer with Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard last night, which he said would be his shout.

Mr Key also found out that a friend in need is a friend with Blackhawk helicopters. New Zealand and South Korea mark 50 years of diplomatic relations with an official "year of friendship" and the loan of the two Blackhawks - refitted with VIP leather seated interiors - was a welcome part of it.

Mr Key and his entourage, as well as his media pack of two, were taken by the helicopters to the Kapyong Valley - about 55km from Seoul - for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Anzac memorial for the Korean War.

Clearly impressed by the choppers, Mr Key stood grinning and obediently saying "kim chi" for the cameras - the Korean word for fermented cabbage apparently making a suitable alternative to the usual "cheese".

Mr Key later said that the helicopters were clearly a "must have" - a reference to Finance Minister Bill English's strict ruling that no "nice-to-haves" would get his approval for Government spending.

However, he later admitted investing in his own Prime Ministerial air transport was an unlikely event, although he had some hopes South Korea would give him one.

He suspected such a gift would be above the threshold requiring it to be disclosed in the Register for Pecuniary Interests in which all MPs have to declare their financial interests.

While Mr Obama was the name on the lips of every taxi driver in town, Mr Key did find one small centre of stardom.

He revisited the rather humble Ouga Kalbi barbecue restaurant he had first dined at in 2010 and was greeted with great delight: the restaurant had made a poster out of a photo of him dining there in 2010 and had proudly displayed it ever since.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 Nov 2014 05:23:47 Processing Time: 634ms