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(LEAD) Park arrives in Mongolia for summit diplomacy

All News 22:39 July 14, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo)
By Song Sang-ho

ULAANBAATAR, July 14 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye arrived in Mongolia on Thursday, setting in motion her summit diplomacy aimed at firming up international cooperation to deal with North Korea's nuclear ambitions and a rising wave of trade protectionism.

During her five-day visit to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, Park will attend the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which begins Friday, and hold bilateral talks with her Mongolian counterpart Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.

"This visit (to Mongolia) focuses on strengthening international cooperation needed to address pending issues that we face, including North Korea's nuclear problem and protectionism," Kim Kyou-hyun, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, told reporters.

It is Park's first visit to Mongolia since she assumed office in February 2013. Her predecessor Lee Myung-bak visited the country in 2011.

During the 11th ASEM summit, Park, along with dozens of world leaders, is expected to discuss an array of regional and global issues, such as terrorism, violent extremism and economic uncertainties, fueled by Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union (EU).

Some observers say that the territorial rows over the South China Sea could be a key topic during bilateral or multilateral gatherings as the ASEM summit comes a few days after an international tribunal ruled against China's claim to the lion's share of the resource-rich waterway.

At the summit, Park will also stress the reunification of the Korean Peninsula as a way to ultimately address North Korea-related issues, including its human rights abuses and military provocations, the presidential aide said.

Under the main theme, "20 years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future through Connectivity," the multilateral summit will bring together leaders of more than 50 Asian and European countries, the presidential office said.

Among the participants are EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

On the sidelines of the summit, Park is set to hold summit talks with Juncker, Tusk, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith. But she has no plans to meet separately with Abe and Li, her aides said.

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 two 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 the Mongolian president.

On Sunday, the two leaders will hold a summit to upgrade their partnership by deepening economic ties and cooperation in pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

"In addition to the two countries' geographical proximity, ethnic similarity and cultural affinity, they share the values of democracy and market economy, and the goal of securing peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia," Kim said.

"Park's visit this time will be a crucial opportunity to upgrade the bilateral relationship to a new level."

During the summit, Park is 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.

Park will be accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders from 109 South Korean firms, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

South Korea is Mongolia's fourth-largest trading partner. Last year, their trade volume reached US$292 million.


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