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(2nd LD) S. Korea, Central American nations agree in summit to deepen comprehensive cooperation

All News 14:03 June 25, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES first 9 paras with joint statement)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and eight Central American countries agreed during a group summit Friday to form "new comprehensive cooperative" relations especially in the green and digital sectors.

The accord came at the first South Korea-Central American Integration System summit in 11 years, which was held via video links. The regional group, widely known as SICA, consists of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

President Moon Jae-in and his counterparts agreed on the importance of working together to cope with crises from climate change to COVID-19, as well as in response to the fourth industrial revolution, according to their joint statement.

They agreed to establish a "new comprehensive cooperative relationship on the basis of their traditional friendly cooperative ties," it read.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during the fourth South Korea-Central American Integration System summit, held via video links, at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during the fourth South Korea-Central American Integration System summit, held via video links, at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

The 27-point document also includes Seoul's commitment to pushing for the resumption of the South Korea-SICA cooperation fund program.

The SICA members welcomed Seoul's stated plan to increase its financial commitment to development cooperation in the Northern Triangle countries -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- to $220 million for the 2021-2024 period. The move is intended to help address the issue of migration from the nations to the United States.

The two sides agreed to make proactive efforts to expand people-to-people exchanges and enhance mutual understanding of cultures.

The leaders of the SICA members took note of the South Korean government's efforts for the complete denuclearization of the peninsula and establishment of permanent peace.

They agreed on the need for the resumption of dialogue with North Korea and decided to keep supporting South Korea's campaign for "concrete progress" in the peace process.

Moon said at the outset of the summit, "I am very glad for South Korea to be with SICA's journey towards co-prosperity."

He said South Korea and SICA have practiced solidarity and cooperation in the COVID-19 crisis, sharing materials and experience related to the antivirus fight.

"Now, we plan to broaden the horizons of cooperation and solidarity. South Korea proactively supports SICA members' efforts to achieve regional integration and sustainable economic development through the establishment of stable governance," Moon stated.

The peoples of South Korea and SICA countries are "emotionally close," although they live on the other side of the globe, he said.

South Koreans are so "passionate and dynamic" that they are "called Asia's Latinos," he added.

During the summit, Moon expressed Seoul's commitment to making contributions to the social and economic stability in the SICA region as well as regional integration.

It marked South Korea's first multilateral summit with Latin American countries under the Moon administration.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) participates in the fourth South Korea-Central American Integration System summit, held via video links, at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) participates in the fourth South Korea-Central American Integration System summit, held via video links, at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

The previous South Korea-SICA summit was held in 2010 after the inaugural session in 1996 and the second in 2005.

Cheong Wa Dae pointed out the strategic significance of the Central American region.

It represents a geographical and economic hub connecting North and South America and an advanced base for South Korean companies to enter the U.S. market.

The eight SICA members have a total population of 60 million and around US$330 billion of combined gross domestic product.

The South Korea-Central America free trade agreement took effect in March, and South Korea joined the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) as a non-regional member last year.

SICA is designed to promote the economic, social, cultural and political development of the member countries in a balanced, harmonious and sustainable way. South Korea joined it in 2012 as an extra-regional observer.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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