South Korean President Park Geun-hye left for Russia on Wednesday for a summit of the world’s top 20 economies and a series of bilateral meetings with other leaders in what would be her debut in multilateral diplomacy.
Russia’s second-largest city of Saint Petersburg is the first leg of Park’s two-nation trip that will take her to Vietnam for a state visit billed by officials as the kickoff of her “sales diplomacy” drive aimed at helping boost South Korea’s slumping economy.
It is Park’s third overseas trip as president after the United States in May and China in June.
The Group of 20 summit, set for Thursday and Friday, brings together U.S. President Barack Obama and other top world leaders.
|President Park Geun-hye waves as she leaves for Russia at Seongnam Air Base on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)|
On its sidelines, Park plans to hold one-on-one meetings with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A focus of attention for South Korean media will also be how Park’s first encounter with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will go as they mingle with other leaders during the G20 meetings.
Park has shunned a summit with Abe as relations between their nations remain frayed due to Japan’s repeated claims to South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo. Its unrepentant attitude toward the sexual enslavement of Korean women for its troops during the 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula has also soured relations.
The G20 summit comes as the U.S. Federal Reserve prepares to scale back its monthly bond-purchasing program, known as “quantitative easing.” The planned tapering of the stimulus measure is one of the hottest global economic issues amid concern it would destabilize emerging economies.
The issue will be a key topic in the opening session of the G20 summit. Park plans to emphasize during the meeting that a monetary policy shift in key currency countries should be implemented in a cautious fashion. She believes it should take into account its impact on economies around the world, officials said.
Other issues the G20 summit is expected to take up include how to spur growth, create jobs and promote trade and investment. Park plans to call for countries to make concerted efforts to help the global economy overcome uncertainties and get on the sustainable growth track, officials said.
In particular, she will also deliver a “lead speech” where she plans to highlight the importance of resolving the problems of low growth and high unemployment. Other issues she plans to focus on include aid programs for developing economies, officials said.
On Saturday, Park will head to Vietnam.
The highlight of the five-day visit is a summit with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on Monday. Park plans to use the meeting as the starting point for her “sales diplomacy” while trying to expand all-around cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation, officials said.
Key topics for her discussions include how to forge a mutually beneficial free trade agreement and strengthen cooperation in nuclear power and industrial technology. Also on the agenda are development aid projects, such as providing support for a science and technology institute in Vietnam.
A series of memorandums of understanding will be signed after the summit, officials said.
Park has touted the “sales diplomacy” slogan in recent months as a commitment to use diplomatic trips and meetings to promote the country’s economic interests. The aim is to help Asia’s fourth-largest economy recover from a prolonged slump and revitalize itself.
For example, Park plans to use a dinner meeting Sunday with business leaders of the two countries to help address problems South Korean firms face in the Southeast Asian nation. Regional party leaders and mayors of Vietnam also plan to attend the meeting, officials said.
The state visit also includes meetings with other top Vietnamese leaders, such as Nguyen Phu Trong, the secretary-general of the country’s Communist Party; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung; and Parliamentary Speaker Nguyen Sinh Hung, officials said.
On Tuesday, Park plans to make a one-day visit to the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s economic center and home to some 1,800 South Korean companies. About 85,000 South Korean residents live there.
Park plans to meet with the city’s party secretary Le Thanh Hai as well as Mayor Le Hoang Quan. She will also visit a South Korean-run factory and hold a meeting with Korean residents there before flying back to Hanoi, officials said.
She will be the first South Korean president to visit Ho Chi Minh City in nine years.
Park’s decision to visit Vietnam as her third overseas trip is part of sales diplomacy efforts she plans to focus on in the second half of the year. The move reflects the importance she attaches to the fast-growing region, called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), officials said. (Yonhap News)