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Korea, Mekong nations upgrade relations, adopt joint statement

President Moon Jae-in attends the Korea-Mekong summit on Friday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in attends the Korea-Mekong summit on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea and countries along the Mekong River on Friday upgraded relations to that of strategic partners, and adopted a joint statement outlining ways to further increase cooperation at the second Korea-Mekong Summit held via video link.

Friday’s summit among the leaders of Korea and Mekong River nations – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – was the second to be held since Moon proposed the summit in 2018.

At Friday’s summit, Moon stressed the need for cooperation among the countries, and pledged to further strengthen Korea’s relations with the countries including on the matter of COVID-19 response.

“Korea plans to provide $10 million for providing COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries to COVAX, and to work with Mekong nations to ensure equitable access to the vaccine,” Moon said.

“Travel for essential personnel will be ensured, and efforts for strengthening infrastructure and connectivity in the region will be continued.”

Pledging to work with the UN and other international organizations in managing the resources and environmental conservation of the Mekong River, Moon said that South Korea will increase development aid and Korea-Mekong cooperation fund.

Citing an increase in trade and traveling between Korea and the Mekong nations since 2011, Moon proposed upgrading Korea’s relations with the concerned countries.

According to Moon, trade has increased 2.5-fold and travel has increased 3.3-fold since 2011.

“Today, I propose taking another step to ‘relationship of strategic partners’,” Moon said.

“I hope for Korea and the Mekong (nations) to open the post-COVID era through trust and solidarity, inclusiveness and cooperation.”

As for the joint statement adopted at the summit, it outlines seven areas in which the two sides will prioritize.

The seven areas are culture and tourism, human resource development, rural development, infrastructure, ICT, environment and nontraditional security.

The Korea-Mekong Summit is the second event in a week of multilateral summits Moon will participated in.

On Saturday, the ASEAN Plus 3 summit -- involving the 10 ASEAN members plus Korea, China and Japan -- is scheduled to be held, followed by the East Asia Summit later in the day. The East Asia Summit includes the ASEAN states, Korea, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the US.

The series of multilateral summits will wrap up with a summit of countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership -- the ASEAN states, Korea, Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand.

By Choi He-suk (