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President seeks nuclear tie-up on India trip

Park to hold summit with Singh Thursday

Source: Cheong Wa Dae
Source: Cheong Wa Dae

President Park Geun-hye began her first day in India on Wednesday with the aim of bolstering bilateral cooperation on the economy, science and regional security.

Park’s four-day state visit to India is a part of a weeklong overseas trip. The president will also make another state visit to Switzerland on Saturday, where she will participate in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Park spent her first day in India by meeting Korean residents in New Delhi.

She will hold a summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday and the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues including economic, diplomatic and defense cooperation. She plans to attend a state banquet hosted by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee later that night.

On Friday, she plans to attend economic cooperation meetings and meet Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian firm that acquired Ssangyong Motors, a Korean automaker, in 2011.

It is Park’s first overseas trip in her second year in office. The visit is part of Park’s “sales diplomacy” drive aimed at strengthening Korea’s economic and business ties with the countries. She also hopes to share her vision of “creative economy” with her counterparts and seek ways to increase bilateral cooperation to realize that vision, Cheong Wa Dae officials said. The trip also came some weeks after she vowed in her New Year’s news conference to focus on boosting the country’s economy during the next three years.

The trip to India is expected to offer Korean businesses wider access to its market of 1.2 billion people. The world’s second-most populous nation has high demand for infrastructure construction, such as power supply facilities. But Korean officials said Korean companies have been slow to enter the market despite the comprehensive economic partnership agreement the two countries signed in 2009.

During her state visit, the two sides are set to discuss the need for increasing the level of the trade deal as well as preventing double taxation for companies.

In a recent interview with India’s Doordarshan TV, Park stressed her desire to revise the CEPA.

“I believe the key to achieve the goal of (increasing) trade volume is to upgrade the CEPA,” she said.

“The rate of (the two countries) utilizing the agreement stood at a mere 40 percent and the rate of liberation is also lower than free trade pacts with other countries,” she added.

The president also pointed to Korean companies’ advanced technology and know-how in nuclear power, saying Korea could become a good partner with India in building, operating and maintaining safer nuclear reactors.

“Ever since 1978 when Korea first began operating a commercial nuclear reactor, we have never had a massive safety accident, and we upgraded safety measures after the 2011 Fukushima radiation leak.

“If we can collaborate with India in this sector, transferring know-how and technological skills, I believe it could do good for both sides,” she said.

After India, the president plans to visit Switzerland for four days. It will be the first state visit by a South Korean president to the European country.

By Cho Chung-un and news reports