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Park leaves for Iran for talks with Rouhani

All Headlines 11:00 May 01, 2016

By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, May 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye left for Tehran, the capital of Iran, on Sunday on a historic trip meant to boost political and economic relations between the two countries.

Park is set to meet with her Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on Monday in the first meeting between the leaders of the two countries since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1962.

The summit will set the tone for relations at a time when the Islamic Republic has emerged as a promising market following the lifting of international sanctions earlier this year.

"We expect the trip to serve as an occasion to take a new leap forward in bilateral ties, which have been stalled due to the international sanctions," said Kim Kyou-hyun, a senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs.

The U.N. has lifted sanctions on Iran in a follow-up to a nuclear deal reached with the United States and five world powers over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Park and Rouhani are expected to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

South Korea hopes that North Korea will follow in the footsteps of Iran in curbing its nuclear activities and join the international community.

Still, North Korea has defied international pressure and the sanctions over its nuclear program by viewing it as a powerful deterrent against what it claims is Washington's hostile policy toward it.

Speculation has grown that North Korea could carry out a fifth nuclear test to mark a rare congress of the ruling Workers' Party scheduled for Friday.

South Korea is pushing to participate in Iran's large-scale infrastructure development projects designed to rebuild its economy that was hampered by international sanctions.

South Korea is also seeking to expand bilateral economic cooperation to health care, culture, and information and communication technology beyond construction and infrastructure.

Iran boasts the world's fourth-largest known crude oil deposits and ranks No. 1 in natural gas reserves.


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