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Korea, Vietnam vow to seal FTA

Park, Truong Tan Sang agree on wider economic cooperation in their first summit talks in Hanoi

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Published : 2013-09-09 20:45
Updated : 2013-09-09 20:45

President Park Geun-hye and her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang agreed Monday to complete a bilateral free trade agreement by next year and continue to boost cooperation in the nuclear power and energy industries.

The two leaders held summit talks in Hanoi and adopted a joint statement that also promises to strengthen the two countries’ strategic cooperative partnership forged in 2009 and to closely work together on bilateral and international issues.

They agreed to speed up negotiations to achieve a high-standard, comprehensive FTA by 2014. Two rounds of talks will be held in October and later this year, Cheong Wa Dae said. The last round of negotiations was held in May.

Park and Truong Tan Sang agreed, in particular, that South Korea’s experience and technology in nuclear power development would benefit Vietnam, and agreed to continue to cooperate.

In the statement, the two expressed concerns toward North Korea’s nuclear test, reaffirmed their intolerance to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, and urged the reclusive state to faithfully implement international obligations to become a responsible member of the international community.
President Park Geun-hye and Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang confer during a joint press conference in Hanoi on Monday. (Yonhap News)

The summit talks with Vietnam underscored Park’s “sales diplomacy” as one of her top priorities, aiming to use diplomatic trips and meetings to promote Korea’s economic interests.

Park arrived in Hanoi on Saturday for a five-day state visit, her third overseas trip as president. Vietnam was considered an unusual choice for one of her first overseas visits, which officials said shows that Park was very committed to the country and the region for their importance in her “sales diplomacy” mission. She visited the United States and China earlier this year.

Kicking off her “sales diplomacy” drive with the key emerging economic partner, Park discussed ways to cooperate on construction of nuclear power plants, large-scale infrastructure projects and the free trade agreement.

During the talks, Park pitched South Korea’s excellence in nuclear power technology and urged for the Vietnamese government’s support and interest in Korean companies’ advances to its market.

Vietnam plans to build 10 nuclear reactors by 2030, and South Korea hopes to take part in the construction of two of them, producing more than 1,000 megawatts each. The two-reactor projects are worth about $10 billion. Russia and Japan are also vying for participation.

South Korean firms are also trying to win a $3.6 billion project to build two 1,000-megawatt, coal-powered thermal power plants in the Long Phu district in southern Vietnam. They hope to win a $2.3 billion project to build two 600-megawatt thermal power plants in the Nghi Son economic zone in northern Vietnam as well.

Other projects South Korea is pushing for include acquiring a 44 percent stake in a combined cycle thermal power plant in the Nhon Trach district, southeastern Vietnam, and building and operating an underground oil storage terminal in Dung Quat, southern Vietnam.

The two presidents signed memorandums of understanding on several issues, including labor exchange, spatial data infrastructure and economic cooperation.

Park, in particular, promised to establish a science technology research institute known as V-KIST, modeled after the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.

Other aid projects include building a road linking the northern Vietnamese cities of Tan Van and Nhon Trach, joint research and development in the parts industries, and sharing Korea’s expertise in logistics, agriculture and other sectors.

Diplomatically, Park urged Truong Tan Sang for support in her trust-building process for the Korean Peninsula in which she aims to deal with North Korea based on the principle of responding to reconciliatory gestures equally while sternly counteracting any provocation.

The two leaders agreed to regularize their meeting and activate high-level government exchanges on politics and security including a regular strategic dialogue on foreign affairs.

In her interview with the local press, Park stressed that she will push for the two countries’ cooperation to expand to the emerging fields of climate change, environment, science technology, energy security, information telecommunication and biotechnology as true growth partners for the next 20 years.

Later in the day, Park met 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.

Park is set to meet with Korean businesses and residents in Ho Chi Minh on Tuesday. She returns to Seoul on Wednesday.

By Lee Joo-hee and news reports
(jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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