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EU 'fully' supports S. Korea's efforts to prevent escalation of tensions on peninsula

A high-ranking European Union official said Thursday that the EU "fully" supports Seoul's efforts to make sure there is no escalation of tensions, and stressed North Korea's recent test-fire of missiles is drawing strong condemnation from the international community.

Gunner Wiegand, managing director of Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service, also said that the EU-South Korea bilateral relations are in an "excellent stage" but underlined the importance of further improving the ties in many areas.

"You are under particular threat with developments linked to nuclear weapons and use of ballistic missiles which we had witnessed yesterday," he said in a speech before starting the 13th South Korea-EU joint economic committee meeting held in Seoul to discuss diverse economic issues.

"The EU is fully supporting you in your efforts to ensure that there is no escalation of tensions and that the region will prevail in the interest of all people on both sides of the demilitarized zone," he added.

Tensions have been growing since the North fired off what appeared to be two intermediate-range missiles known to the outside world as Musudan on Wednesday.

The first launch is presumed to have ended in failure. But the second missile flew some 400 kilometers and reached an altitude of about 1,000 km, which analysts say is an indication that the North may have fixed problems that have plagued the Musudan missile in the past. Pyongyang later claimed that the second launch was a "success."

Touching on strengthened ties between the two sides, particularly on the economic front, Wiegand said that the EU has "very good" and "close" relations with South Korea but noted that it is necessary to intensify efforts to further improve the already strong ties.

"I think that when we look at our purely bilateral relationship, it is really in excellent stage of relations. I have rarely seen such an advanced relations and with so few problems," he said. "But problems, of course, should not make us complacent. We need to always seize the opportunities."

Lee Tae-ho, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs. (Yonhap)
Lee Tae-ho, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs. (Yonhap)
In his welcoming speech, Lee Tae-ho, deputy minister for economic affairs, said that the South Korea-EU free trade deal which went into effect in 2011 has given both an "impetus" for more economic interaction and helped Seoul enjoy a "positive" impact at a time when the global economic slump is underway.

"Many of topics this morning will focus on economic issues and I hope that our discussion will give another momentum for us to work together in this area," he said. "This committee will give us another opportunity to discuss ways and means to improve further those interactions. So we hope that this meeting will provide such an important opportunity to do so."

Meanwhile, both sides did not mention anything related to the upcoming decision by Britain on whether it will leave or remain in the EU and any impact the so-called Brexit could have on bilateral ties between the two regions. (Yonhap)


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