(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye left for Mongolia on Thursday to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and hold bilateral talks with her Mongolian counterpart, her office Cheong Wa Dae said.
The five-day trip to Ulaanbaatar is expected to focus on drumming up support for the ongoing international efforts to pressure North Korea to renounce its nuclear ambitions, and forge stronger economic ties with Mongolia, an emerging, resource-rich country.
It will be her first visit to Mongolia since taking office in February 2013. Her predecessor Lee Myung-bak visited the country in 2011.
Under the main theme, "20 years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future through Connectivity," the 11th ASEM summit, slated to take place on Friday and Saturday, will bring together leaders of more than 50 Asian and European countries, the presidential office said.
Among the participants are Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Park has no plans at the moment to hold a summit with Abe or Li, her aides said.
Observers said that the ASEM summit will provide a venue for in-depth discussions on an array of major regional and international issues, including military threats posed by a provocative, nuclear-ambitious North Korea.
The summit is also expected to touch on economic uncertainties, which were fueled by Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union (EU).
Launched in 1996, ASEM is a consultative body aimed at strengthening cooperation between Asia and Europe in political, economic, social, cultural and other areas. The summit is held biennially, with the last one held in Italy in 2014.
ASEM consists of 51 member states and 2 regional organizations: the European Union and the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As of 2015, the grouping represents 63 percent of the world's population and 58 percent of the global gross domestic product.
Starting Sunday, Park will begin her two-day official visit to the country, which was arranged on the invitation of Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.
During their summit, the leaders will discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in tackling climate change through the development of renewable energy sources and an antidesertification program, and cooperation in telemedicine and electronic governance, as well as cultural areas, officials here said.
The president is also expected to call on Mongolia to support South Korean firms seeking to participate in the country's infrastructure projects, including various urban development schemes and those to expand electricity transmission networks.
South Korea has touted that Mongolia with a population of 3 million is a "promising niche" market that offers new business opportunities for South Korea's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Park will be accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders from 109 South Korean firms, mostly SMEs.
South Korea is Mongolia's fourth-largest trading partner. Last year, their trade volume reached US$292 million.
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