(ATTN: UPDATES with outcome of summit between S. Korea and China)
By Kim Kwang-tae
MILAN, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that her country will dispatch medical personnel to Ebola-hit West African countries to help curb the deadly outbreak.
The decision unveiled at a biennial summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, known as ASEM, in Milan underscored the urgency of handling the crisis that poses a serious threat to the international community.
"Korea has also decided to dispatch medical personnel to counter the rapid spread of the Ebola virus, in addition to providing humanitarian assistance," Park said at the two-day summit that opened earlier in the day.
South Korea has so far pledged US$5.6 million for the anti-Ebola fight.
Seoul's latest move came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama called for a "faster and more robust international response to the Ebola epidemic" as he spoke with his counterparts from Britain, Germany, France and Italy by video teleconference.
Separately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Seoul to offer additional assistance to cope with the Ebola epidemic during his telephone conversation with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se earlier this week.
Also Thursday, Park pressed North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program as she renewed her ambitious Eurasia initiative to bind Eurasian nations closer together through a multi-purpose logistics and transportation network.
She also proposed a symposium next year to discuss a logistics network across Asia and Europe.
"It is in North Korea that the connection between the western and eastern halves of Eurasia is severed. Bridging this missing link is critical," Park said.
South Korea hopes to eventually link its rail network to Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway via North Korea, an ambitious project that will cut shipping times and logistics costs for South Korea's Europe-bound exports.
Discussions on the project to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway with the potential Trans-Korean Railway have been underway for more than a decade, although no major progress has been made due to geopolitical obstacles, particularly North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
"Asia and Europe should redouble efforts to encourage North Korea to open its doors and choose the path to genuine change as soon as possible," Park said.
Park also asked China to encourage North Korea to embrace change, saying South Korea is willing to help North Korea's economic development once it abandons its nuclear program.
Park made the comment in bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the ASEM summit.
Li said China's position remains unchanged that the Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized and said that China supports improvement of inter-Korean relations.
Park also held separate talks with her Danish and French counterparts.
Still, she appears unlikely to sit down for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said in Tokyo on Wednesday that it would be good if he has a chance to talk to Park on the sidelines of the ASEM summit.
"We are set to hold bilateral talks with some countries with which we have pending issues," Foreign Minister Yun told Yonhap News Agency by phone in Milan on Wednesday night.
He said holding bilateral talks with Japan and other countries "won't be easy" due to a tight schedule at the multilateral conference, though he said he was not sure whether there could be any chance for an encounter between Park and Abe.
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