Park will set off for Central Asia

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Park will set off for Central Asia

President Park Geun-hye will pay a six-day state visit to Central Asia starting today to boost economic cooperation with three resource-rich nations there, the Blue House said yesterday.

Park will visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan from today until Saturday, said Ju Chul-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, at a briefing yesterday. The tour is mainly to forge economic ties with the region and to discuss ongoing natural resource development and infrastructure projects led by some South Korean companies there.

The president will be accompanied by a 93-member economic delegation mostly composed of South Korean businessmen, according to the Blue House.

In her first stop, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, a summit will take place tomorrow between Park and President Islam Karimov. The leaders are expected to discuss several joint projects in renewable energy and infrastructure, according to the Blue House, including the ongoing construction of the Surgil gas field near the Aral Sea.

Park will also meet with some of the 180,000 Korean nationals residing in the country, Ju said.

On Wednesday, Park will head to Samarkand, a strategically important city in the country for its central location on the Silk Road. She will later depart for Kazakhstan, South Korea’s biggest investment partner in Central Asia. Roughly 250 Korean companies are estimated to be running projects and businesses there.

Park will meet Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Thursday in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to negotiate the smooth implementation of several ongoing projects in the country, such as the building of a coal-fired thermal power plant in the southern city of Balkhash and a petrochemical complex in Atyrau on the northern banks of the Caspian Sea.

For the first time as a South Korean president, Park will also pay a state visit to Turkmenistan on Friday and Saturday, the Blue House said.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov will hold a bilateral summit with Park on Friday. The meeting is expected to increase governmental support for joint projects in Turkmenistan, like an oil refinery construction deal at the Galkynysh gas field inked in 2009 by a Korean consortium of LG International and Hyundai Engineering.

Ju said the visit is part of Park’s ambitious “Eurasia Initiative,” a vision the president came up with for regional and economic cooperation between Europe and Asia.

As well as her emphasis on economic partnerships, Park will also seek cooperation with the three countries to push for the denuclearization of North Korea, Ju said.


BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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