By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell expressed hope Wednesday for cooperation with South Korea on his country's infrastructure project, citing Seoul's experience and expertise on related development.
He was in Seoul for an annual high-level South Korea-Caribbean partnership forum and also had one-on-one talks with the country's top diplomat, Park Jin.
"We have 28 international airports in the Bahamas and in Grand Bahama, we need about US$200 to $300 million to upgrade the existing airport," he told Yonhap News Agency in an interview, when asked about potential business opportunities for South Korea in his nation. "Three or four airports need to be redeveloped immediately. I'm sure, having looked at your own airport, (South Korea) obviously has the expertise to do it."
He added that the Bahamas' tourism hotels are also in need of redevelopments.
South Korea is widely considered one of the leading nations in terms of airport development, with Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main gateway, being named the world's best airport for a record 12th consecutive year in the annual Airport Service Quality Awards presented by the Airports Council International in 2017.
Mitchell is the first foreign minister of the Bahamas to make an official visit to South Korea in 34 years. He said his trip is in part to extend his country's outreach with Northeast Asia, which had mainly focused on China and, to some extent, Japan.
The Bahamas established diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1985 but hasn't operated an embassy in Seoul. Mitchell said he discussed the possibility with Park, his South Korean counterpart, of appointing an honorary consul here to represent the interests of the Bahamas and help forge ties with the South Korean business community.
Mitchell said he especially looks forward to joint projects related to hydrogen technology with South Korea, considering that 80 percent of the Bahamas, an archipelago nation comprised of nearly 700 coral islands, is surrounded by the sea.
Regarding North Korea's evolving missile provocations, Mitchell said the Bahamas does not support "the aggressive actions of any country encroaching on the independence and sovereignty of another country."
In terms of the Bahamas, which has had diplomatic ties with North Korea since 1991, potentially engaging with Pyongyang to help ease such tensions, Mitchell said it is first up to the "big players" to initiate talks with Pyongyang.
"If it is felt by the bigger players that we can play some useful role, then we would be happy to do so," he said.
He was guarded about whether the Bahamas will support South Korea's bid to host the 2030 World Expo in its southern port city of Busan, saying its stance is to "keep an open mind."
Mitchell, who plans to visit Busan to observe the city's preparations, said that South Korea seems competent to "put on a fantastic show" if chosen to host the event.
"And I have no doubt that it will be impressive," he added.
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