Tehran wants a Korean Peninsula without nukes

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Tehran wants a Korean Peninsula without nukes

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Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, is welcomed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an official arrival ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

TEHRAN - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promoted a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula following a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, sending a message to North Korea to give up its atomic weapons program.

“We want a change on the Korean Peninsula,” Rouhani said in a joint press conference with Park following their summit at the Saadabad Palace. “In principle, we are opposed to any nuclear development.

“It is our basic principle that dangerous weapons and nuclear weapons disappear on the Korean Peninsula, and in the Middle East in particular,” he added.

At the press conference, Park said she explained her policy of zero tolerance for the North’s nuclear program and denuclearization efforts during the summit with Rouhani and sought Iran’s cooperation.

Iran has long maintained a close military relationship with North Korea. South Korean presidential aides said the Iranian leader’s public protest of the North’s nuclear program will exert significant pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime.

Park’s meeting with the Iranian leader also came as speculation grew about North Korea’s fifth nuclear test.

Park also anchored massive business deals in the world’s biggest emerging market.

“The two countries agreed to cooperate on restoring trade and investment relations,” Park said.

Rouhani said bilateral trade will be expanded by three times, and a direct air route between Tehran and Seoul will open. He said Korean companies will be able to make direct investments in Iran, operate joint ventures and transfer technologies.

Park’s four-day trip, which began Sunday, is the first state visit by a South Korean president to Iran since the two countries launched diplomatic ties in 1962. In 2010, before Korea imposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, bilateral trade totaled some $17.4 billion. It dropped to $6.1 billion in 2015 after a number of cooperative economic projects, already underway in Iran, were suspended.

After international sanctions were lifted with a historic nuclear deal, Seoul also lifted its restrictions earlier this year, and Park headed to the country to win business in the promising market. The largest-ever economic delegation of 236 businesses accompanied Park.

Some 66 memoranda of understanding were signed between Korea and Iran as of Monday, the Blue House said. It said the summit was the greatest economic diplomacy accomplishment of the president.

According to the Blue House, provisional contracts and memoranda of understanding were signed on 30 massive infrastructure and energy projects in Iran. In total, the deals are worth about 42 trillion won ($37.1 billion). Taking into account follow-up construction for some projects, the deals will be worth as much as $45.6 billion, the Blue House said.

“We made a conservative estimate by saying that we won deals worth $37.1 billion,” a presidential aide said. “The actual economic accomplishment will be far larger.”

The projects include $12.1 billion worth of infrastructure construction in Iran, including railways, roads and water management. Another $31.6 billion worth of projects were focused on energy industry reconstruction.

Among infrastructure projects, Korea secured a railway bed construction and train car supply project for a railroad linking Ispahan and Ahvaz, which will be worth $5.3 billion. Korea also won a $1.5 billion Tehran-Shomal highway project.

Korea and Iran will resume suspended negotiations on a South Pars liquefied natural gas plant construction project worth $3.5 billion.

The memoranda of understanding signed Monday also include a Bahman Geno oil refinery construction project, in which a total of $10 billion will be invested in two stages. For medical and health programs, Korea will help build six hospitals worth $1.7 billion.

According to the Blue House, the Korean government will launch a $25 billion financing program for Korean companies’ bids in Iran. The Export-Import Bank of Korea will supply $15 billion, the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation will provide $6 billion and a consortium by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance will chip in $4 billion.

An Chong-bum, the senior presidential secretary for the economy, said during a press briefing in Tehran that he hopes the trip will stimulate a second “Middle East” boom in Korea.

The first boom took place in the 1970s and ’80s, when massive construction orders won by Korean companies contributed greatly to Korea’s economic growth.

BY SER MYO-JA, SHIN YOUNG-HO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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