Sheikh Mohammed in Seoul on three-day trip

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Sheikh Mohammed in Seoul on three-day trip

President Park Geun-hye yesterday met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to advance cooperation between Korea and the United Arab Emirates in regard to the economy, energy and defense.

This visit by Sheikh Mohammed, who is also deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, is significant, as it marks the highest-ranking figure from the Middle East to visit Korea since Park was inaugurated as president, the Blue House said.

“I have especially looked forward to coming to Korea because many projects are taking place between our two countries,” said Sheikh Mohammed, especially the “nuclear power plant projects.”

He added that he had “long waited” to meet Park over the past year for these reasons and stated that the two countries need to “diversify cooperation in the future.”

The Blue House said in a statement yesterday that President Park and Sheikh Mohammed were set to speak “across the board on the progress of ever-growing bilateral cooperation” in areas such as “nuclear power, energy, construction, defense and health care.”

They also took the opportunity to reaffirm their strategic partnership.

“Because I believe there is great synergy in the cooperative relationship between our nations, I hope your visit will serve as an opportunity to fortify the foundation of our joint prosperity,” President Park said to the crown prince.

The two held an official dinner after the talks.

Park expressed Korea’s commitment to maintaining special ties with the UAE, which dates back to 1975. The relationship gained momentum in 2009 when the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) won a landmark $20 billion contract to build four nuclear reactors there by 2020.

In January, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Yoon Sang-jick and CEO of Korea Electric Power Corporation Cho Hwan-eik visited Barakah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to inspect the construction site of a power plant being built by a Kepco-led consortium.

The project is operating smoothly, Kepco said last month, with unit 1 scheduled for completion in May 2017.

In preparation for its post-oil era, the UAE economic plan looks to lessen the country’s gross domestic product’s dependence on petroleum gas from 50 percent to 40 percent, while looking to expand its GDP by 6 percent on average annually by 2030, increasing its overall GDP by five times. The UAE is currently looking for new energy potential, where Korea can contribute its expertise after decades of building nuclear power plants.

The two leaders share in common their fathers being presidents of their countries in a time of economic development. Sheikh Mohammed is the son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates.

They also exchanged views on recent developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle Eastern region, and discussed ways to work more closely together in the international arena.

Following an official visit to Japan, the sheikh arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day visit, accompanied by a delegation that included his ministers of foreign affairs, energy and administration.

He was accepting President Park’s official invitation, extended to the crown prince last February following her inauguration, which was attended by the UAE foreign minister.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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