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French minister says Korea-France relationship is at its peak

The relationship between South Korea and France is "at its peak" now with brisk exchanges in science, culture, economics and other realms, the French top diplomat said Wednesday, expressing hopes for continued future-oriented cooperation.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that despite historical and language differences, the two countries have "many things in common," which would help further cement their long-standing amicable ties.

"The two nations established their diplomatic relations 130 years ago and have forged a strategic partnership based upon which they have bolstered their exchanges and trade volume," the minister said. "I believe the bilateral relationship is at its peak."

Ayrault arrived here on Wednesday for a three-day visit. It is his first trip to an Asian country since he was inaugurated last month as the French minister of foreign affairs and international development.

His schedule here was arranged as part of the two countries' efforts to mark the 130th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties, which falls on June 4 this year.

Having designated the period from the latter part of 2015 to the end of 2016 as the "2015-2016 Korea-France Year," the two countries have been celebrating the anniversary with some 350 events in various areas including culture, education, science-technology, economy and industry.

Ayrault portrayed the celebratory events taking place in both nations as "forward-looking," taking note of Seoul's "strong" resolve to develop the bilateral relationship.

"The South Korean government with a strong resolve has been striving to develop the bilateral relationship as shown in its push for the series of the events (to mark the 130th anniversary of the relations)," he said.

"I hope that bilateral exchanges in the economy, culture and science-technology will further be strengthened. To this end, I have come here to Korea."

The minister also said that he would like to capitalize on his trip to Korea to introduce France's culture, tradition and cuisines to Koreans, and to underscore that France has made many achievements in terms of technological innovation.

As for the areas of future cooperation, the French minister pointed to language education, which would help students of the two nations better understand one another and deepen their friendship.

On Thursday, Ayrault will hold the first "strategic dialogue" with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues including North Korea's nuclear problem. The meeting is in line with an agreement reached at last year's summit that aims to strengthen the two countries' comprehensive partnership.

Last year, two-way trade reached $8.7 billion with South Korea exporting $2.6 billion worth of ships, cars, cellular phones and other products to France and importing $6.1 billion worth of aircraft, cosmetics, medicine and other items. (Yonhap)
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