ROME -- The leaders of South Korea and Italy agreed Wednesday to upgrade the countries' relationship to a strategic partnership, setting a diplomatic framework to push for deeper political, security and economic cooperation.
In a summit in Rome, President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte agreed that the two countries will establish vice ministerial-level diplomatic dialogue and a joint committee for industrial and energy cooperation, Moon's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.
"In the summit, the two leaders agreed to upgrade the countries' ties to a strategic partnership while holding in-depth discussions on ways to increase their practical cooperation in the political and defense sectors and the development of trade, investment and science technology to jointly prepare for the fourth industrial revolution," Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.
|President Moon Jae-in and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseeppe Conte inspect honor guards at a welcoming ceremony in Rome on Wednesday. (Yonhap)|
Moon arrived in Rome on Tuesday for the second leg of his five-nation European tour, which earlier took him to Paris.
Moon asked the Italian leader to support his country's efforts to peacefully denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. He explained details of his three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this year, in which Kim confirmed his decision to denuclearize.
"Prime Minister Conte highly evaluated our government's leadership that led to the recent positive changes on the Korean Peninsula and expressed his unwavering support for our government's North Korea policy," Cheong Wa Dae said.
In a joint press statement issued after their summit, the leaders reaffirmed their joint efforts to peacefully denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
"Prime Minister Conte welcomed and expressed full support for the diplomatic initiatives undertaken by President Moon through the three inter-Korean Summits to advance inter-Korean relations and achieve complete denuclearization and work towards permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula," the statement said.
"President Moon highly appreciated Italy's consistent support for and contribution to the process of peacefully resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders shared the view that the denuclearization must be achieved in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," it added.
The summit followed Moon's meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella earlier in the day.
After their meeting, Moon and Conte attended a signing ceremony where the countries inked three new agreements on cooperation in defense, air services and trade.
Under a memorandum of understanding for bilateral cooperation in industry, energy and trade promotion, the two countries agreed to biennially hold a "strategic meeting" to discuss ways to expand their cooperation in those areas.
The air services agreement calls for joint efforts to increase the number of passenger and cargo flights between the two countries as a way of promoting their trade and people-to-people exchange.
Details of the agreement for defense cooperation were not immediately available. Cheong Wa Dae said they will be released after both countries complete their internal reviews.
"Recognizing defense cooperation as an important element of the comprehensive bilateral relationship, the leaders welcomed the signing of the "Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of the Italian Republic on Defense Cooperation" on the occasion of President Moon's official visit to Rome, and agreed to further expand the fields of their cooperation in this respect," the leaders said in their joint press statement.
The South Korean president will begin an official visit to the Vatican later in the day and attend a special Mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula to be presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state of the Holy See.
Moon is scheduled to meet Pope Francis on Thursday.
Moon embarked on his first Europe trip as president Saturday, seeking to expand bilateral ties and rally international support for his peace initiative.
While in France, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Moon stressed the need for the world body to consider easing its sanctions against the North when and if the country's denuclearization process reaches a point of no return.
he South Korean president insists that giving Pyongyang a taste of economic and diplomatic concessions it could enjoy when it completely abandons its nuclear weapons program would encourage the impoverished nation to further accelerate its denuclearization process. (Yonhap)