High-ranking UAE official due in Korea amid speculation about soured ties

By Yonhap
  • Published : Jan 8, 2018 - 09:55
  • Updated : Jan 8, 2018 - 10:16
A high-ranking United Arab Emirates official arrived in Seoul on Monday for a two-day visit that could address opposition allegations that Seoul's presidential chief of staff traveled to the Middle Eastern nation last month to secretly settle a dispute between the two countries.

Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, was one of the UAE officials who attended a meeting between presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on Dec. 10.

At the time, the presidential office said that Im traveled to the UAE and Lebanon to visit South Korean troops deployed in the countries. But after the trip, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party alleged that the real purpose of the visit was to resolve an embarrassing dispute with the UAE.

The opposition has raised various possibilities, including suspicions that Im's trip was to allay the UAE's concerns about the impact President Moon Jae-in's nuclear-free policy will have on the 2009 deal for South Korea to build and manage nuclear reactors in the Middle East country.

The photo provided by the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae shows Im Jong-seok (L), South Korea`s presidential chief of staff, shaking hands with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, on Dec. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

The speculation gained traction as Al Mubarak is also in charge of the reactor project.

The opposition has also alleged that Im's visit could have been to address the UAE's grievances over Seoul's alleged attempts to reduce its troop presence in the country or revise "secret" mutual military agreements signed under Moon's predecessors.

The presidential office has rejected these suspicions.

Al Mubarak's visit is expected to include a meeting with Im, as well as a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun. He could also pay a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in

He is expected to arrange Moon's possible visit to the UAE. During phone talks in June, Moon told the crown prince that he hoped to attend the ceremony to mark the completion of a nuclear reactor in the country built by South Korea.

As chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., he is also likely to meet Korean business leaders, especially those in the nuclear energy sector. (Yonhap)