Park to visit Netherlands, Germany this month

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 14, 2014 - 20:58
  • Updated : Mar 14, 2014 - 20:58
President Park Geun-hye will visit the Netherlands later this month for a summit of global leaders aimed at making the world safer and free of nuclear weapons. She will also fly to Germany for a state visit after the summit, Cheong Wa Dae said Friday.

The March 23-28 trip to the Hague and then to the German cities of Berlin, Dresden and Frankfurt is Park’s second overseas trip this year after January’s visit to India and Switzerland. While the January trip focused mostly on economic cooperation, the upcoming visit is oriented more toward security discussions.

While in the Hague, Park will attend the third Nuclear Security Summit set for March 24-25, a biennial gathering of leaders from 53 countries and four international organizations aimed at discussing ways to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The inaugural summit was held in Washington in 2010 and the second summit in Seoul in 2012.

As head of the chair country of the previous summit, Park is scheduled to make a speech in the opening session, where she plans to stress the importance of the international community working together to prevent nuclear terrorism and present a way forward, officials said.

Park is one of the three leaders to make a speech in the opening session. The other two are Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In the following session, Park plans to announce what South Korea has done to improve nuclear security and discuss with other leaders the future of the summit.

The summit comes amid heightened concerns over Japan’s massive stockpile of plutonium, a fissile material that can be used as fuel for nuclear bombs. Earlier this week, Seoul’s foreign minister expressed concern, saying any country would invite suspicion if it produces or possesses nuclear materials more than it needs for energy purposes.

It was unclear whether Park will raise the issue at the upcoming conference.

Another focus of media attention will be the possibility of Park meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the summit’s sidelines. But such chances appear low as Seoul has said Japan should first take steps demonstrating its seriousness about mending ties frayed badly over history issues.

On the sidelines of the summit, Park plans to hold a one-on-one meeting with Rutte to discuss ways to substantially expand cooperation between the two countries and exchange views on major regional and global issues. She is also scheduled to attend a lunch hosted by Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

The March 25-28 visit to Germany will be watched closely because Park could unveil a new vision for unification with North Korea. South Korean leaders have sometimes used trips to the unified Germany to announce new proposals or policies on North Korea.

In Berlin, Park is scheduled to meet with German President Joachim Gauck and then with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Expanding economic cooperation and sharing unification experiences with Germany will be among the key topics for the two meetings, officials said.

Park and Merkel have built personal bonds with each other since they first met in 2000 when Park visited Germany as leader of the then opposition party. Merkel was also the first foreign head of state to call Park to congratulate her on winning the 2012 presidential election.

The two last met in September on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Russia.

The German trip also includes a stop in Dresden. Park is the first South Korean president to visit the former economic center of East Germany. She will also stop in Frankfurt to meet with South Korean expatriates in Germany.

“The state visit to Germany is expected to serve as an important opportunity to further expand and deepen friendly cooperative relations with Europe’s biggest economy and share unification experiences to lay the foundation of our unification,” the presidential office said in a statement. (Yonhap)