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(4th LD) S. Korea, UAE agree to upgrade ties, launch dialogue of foreign, defense officials

All News 18:06 January 09, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES with more details, minor changes in paras 4-5, 16-20)

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United Arab Emirates agreed Tuesday to further enhance their bilateral relationship to upgrade their diplomatic ties into a comprehensive strategic relationship, a Seoul official said.

The agreement came in a meeting between Im Jong-seok, Seoul's presidential chief of staff, and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi.

"The United Arab Emirates is the only country in the Middle East with which we have a strategic partnership, and we have agreed to develop the relationship into a more comprehensive strategic partnership," Im said at a joint press event that followed his lunch meeting with Al Mubarak in Seoul.

To this end, the countries have agreed to launch a new Two Plus Two dialogue involving their foreign and defense officials, according to Park Soo-hyun, a spokesman for the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"Normally, a Two Plus Two dialogue is held between allies," he told a press briefing.

The UAE official arrived here Monday as a special envoy of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

"The United Arab Emirates and Korea have a very special, long-term historic relationship," he told reporters.

"It is a relationship we care very much about and it's a relationship we are working together always to strengthen and to build more ties in more sectors. We have a very unique relationship that goes into many areas and many sectors, that covers all aspects of the government, private and public sectors," he added.

South Korean Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok (R) and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, a special envoy of the United Arab Emirates, hold a joint press event following their bilateral talks in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)

An official from Cheong Wa Dae earlier said Al Mubarak was returning a trip by Im on Dec. 10 to Abu Dhabi, when he paid a visit to the Crown Prince.

However, his trip also came amid suspicions of soured relations between the two countries.

Cheong Wa Dae earlier dismissed such suspicions raised by opposition parties, insisting Im's trip to the UAE was only aimed at further improving the bilateral ties and visiting South Korean forces stationed in the Middle Eastern country.

Al Mubarak said the relationship between South Korea and his country remained strong.

"The people of the United Arab Emirates and the people of Korea share a lot in common and have a strong relationship together and that is reflected in the strength of the relationship we have between the United Arab Emirates government and the Korean government," he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi and special envoy of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, before the start of their meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)

The UAE official expressed hope that the countries will further enhance their bilateral ties in the energy and electronics sectors, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman.

While later making a courtesy call on South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Al Mubarak again confirmed the strong relationship between the two countries.

"I must say, the fact that you, Mr. President, have made time to meet me shows how close and strong the bond between the two countries is," he said, adding he was aware how busy Moon and his government must have been on the day that also saw the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.

Officials from the divided Koreas met earlier in the day for their first government-level talks in more than two years.

Al Mubarak also relayed a special message from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, along with his invitation for the South Korean leader to visit the Middle Eastern country.

"Crown Prince Mohammed sincerely wishes for you, Mr. President, to visit the UAE, and is beginning to make all necessary preparations," he told the South Korean president, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

Moon accepted the invitation while extending his own invitation to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to visit Seoul in the near future, according to Park.

"I hope we will work together to develop our countries' relationship into one of true brother nations, just as the name of the Akh unit means," he said, referring to the South Korean military unit that has been stationed in the UAE since 2011.

bdk@yna.co.kr

(END)

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