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Foreign minister highlights global solidarity, cooperation on COVID-19 pandemic

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha delivers a speech at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain on Saturday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha delivers a speech at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain on Saturday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Saturday stressed the importance of global solidarity and international cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future crises.
 
She made the remark at the Manama Dialogue, an annual regional security forum held in Bahrain that involved security and political officials and experts. Kang was on a four-day trip to the region from Thursday, visiting Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for meetings with officials.
 
“Global governance was at a low point when COVID-19 struck, with trust in multilateralism and the rules-based international order already greatly eroded,” she said in her speech at the forum, held in Bahrain’s capital on Saturday.
 
“COVID-19 is a humble reminder of our interconnectedness as well as our shared vulnerability, and thus the critical importance of global solidarity and international cooperation.”
 
She then called for “concerted action” by the international community to end the pandemic and be better prepared for future crises. In specific, Kang urged the countries to support each other in strengthening emergency health capabilities, including securing equitable access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
 
Kang also emphasized the need to strengthen the global health architecture centered around the World Health Organization, to make the international body “stronger and more effective in tackling current and future public health challenges.”
 
At the same time, she stressed the need for coordinated action to rebuild economies, including normalization of cross-border movement of people.
 
Underlining the need for regional coordination to prepare for future pandemics, Kang also talked about President Moon Jae-in’s recent proposal of launching a “Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative” for disease control and public health -- inviting countries in the region as well as North Korea.
 
“We believe this initiative can serve to solidify regional cooperation on public health, and bring North Korea into a regional mechanism aiming to safeguard the health and safety of our people,” she said, raising hope for the initiative to generate positive energy for the Korean Peninsula peace process.
 
The forum, which ran through Sunday, was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, through a virtual link, and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq, among others.
 
On the sidelines of the event, Kang held a series of bilateral talks with counterparts including Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud as well as foreign ministers Fuad Hussain of Iraq, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani of Bahrain and Ayman Hussein Al-Safadi of Jordan.
 
During her talks with Faisal, the two affirmed to expand bilateral ties in various areas beyond the economic cooperation of energy and infrastructure cooperation.
 
On Saturday, Kang flew to the UAE and held talks with Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country’s foreign minister, discussing ways to foster cooperation in areas of education, health, information and technology. The top diplomats also discussed international issues including the Middle East situation, the Korean Peninsula and US-China relations.
 
The two sides also agreed to expand cooperation on the World Expo, with Kang affirming Seoul’s commitment to support Expo 2020 Dubai, which has been pushed to next year due to the pandemic. She also asked the UAE government’s active cooperation as Korea seeks to host the World Expo in 2030 in Busan.
 
On Sunday, the Korean minister was to visit the site where construction has been under way for the South Korean pavilion for the World Expo and meet with Reem Al Hashimi, the minister for international cooperation who doubles as the chief of the expo’s organizing committee, before wrapping up her trip and returning home.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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