President set to visit Middle East next month

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President set to visit Middle East next month

President Park Geun-hye will visit Saudi Arabia and three other Middle East countries on a nine-day trip starting from March 1, the presidential office said Sunday.

The trip, scheduled to be President Park’s first overseas tour this year, will take her to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar and is aimed at strengthening business connections and security issues.

Park is slated to arrive in Kuwait on March 1, and leave for Saudi Arabia on March 3. She will move on to the UAE on March 4 and leave for Qatar on the 6th, where she will conclude her voyage on March 8.

The Blue House said Park’s visit to the oil-abundant region was initially scheduled for May 2014, but was postponed due to the sinking of Sewol ferry on April 16, an incident that left more than 300 people dead.

The presidential office expressed its hope in a statement that her trip will serve to boost Korea’s economy. It is anticipated that subsequent business deals will benefit domestic companies doing business in the Middle East and that security talks will further enhance the safety of Koreans living in the region.

In Saudi Arabia, Park is scheduled to meet with newly appointed monarch King Salman, who succeeded the late King Abdullah, who died last month.

“The upcoming trip bears significance in that the Park government’s diplomatic efforts will now extend to the Middle Eastern region,” said Moon Seung-hyun, the presidential secretary for foreign affairs, who added that her visits will increase cooperation with the regional nations on the peaceful reunification of the peninsula and help to resolve the gridlock on talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Moon continued that because this year marks the 50th anniversary since domestic construction companies have gone overseas and the 40th anniversary since venturing into the Middle East, the Blue House looks forward to using Park’s trip to move along its economic reform initiatives. It also hopes it will aid the presence of domestic companies there.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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