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(3rd LD) S. Korean, Vietnamese leaders agree to forge 'strategic partnership'

All Headlines 15:11 October 21, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with leaders' remarks at joint press conference, more details)
By Byun Duk-kun

HANOI, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet agreed Wednesday to upgrade the relationship between their countries to a "strategic cooperative partnership."

The leaders also agreed to establish dialogue between their defense and foreign ministries to forge cooperative security and political ties, according to a joint statement issued by Lee and Triet after their summit here.

"The leaders of the two countries discussed ways to further improve the Korea-Vietnam relationship that developed so rapidly in such a short period of time since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1992," Lee's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

Vietnam is the third nation to establish a strategic partnership with South Korea following China and Russia, according to South Korean officials accompanying their president.

The partnership "means the countries will expand their cooperation not only in the economic sector, but also in the diplomatic and defense sectors," the South Korean president said at a joint press conference with Triet.

Lee and the Vietnamese president also called for efforts to double their nations' bilateral trade to US$20 billion by 2015.

"We two leaders highly evaluated the fact that bilateral trade between our two countries increased 20 times from about $500 million in 1992 when diplomatic ties were established to $10 billion in 2008," they said in the joint statement.

The leaders also agreed to launch a joint study on the feasibility of a bilateral free trade agreement before the year's end.

Lee agreed to recognize Vietnam's Market Economy Status, a move that could significantly improve protection for Vietnamese businesses and their products in trade with South Korea, especially against anti-dumping regulations, according to Lee Dong-kwan, the president's public relations secretary.

The Vietnamese president expressed gratitude for the decision at the joint press conference, saying it will be a "great help" to his country as it looks to further integrate itself with the international community.

The bilateral summit provided new opportunities for South Korean businesses, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

"The joint statement stipulated guarantees for our companies' participation (in Vietnamese projects). This means we have secured the basis for participation in Vietnam's $7-billion Red River development project," Kim told reporters.

Lee also expressed hope for South Korean companies' participation in Vietnam's $9-billion railway project. The Vietnamese president said his government will positively review the request, she said.

The South Korean president arrived here Tuesday as part of his three-nation tour that will also take him to Cambodia and Thailand, where he will attend a regional summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

South Korea and Vietnam will work closely together in international forums, such as ASEAN, to promote their mutual interests, the Cheong Wa Dae press release said.

Lee said he has invited his Vietnamese counterpart to visit South Korea next year, a trip South Korean officials say could coincide with the G-20 economic summit South Korea will host in November next year.

"Korea will host a G-20 meeting next year as the chair of that conference. Therefore, Korea and Vietnam, which will head ASEAN next year, agreed to work together very closely," Lee told the press conference, adding the Vietnamese president has agreed to visit South Korea at an early date.

The South Korean president is set for talks later Wednesday with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the secretary-general of Vietnam's Communist Party, Nong Duc Manh.

He will leave Thursday for Cambodia.


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