Foreign minister kicks off trip to Vietnam to discuss fast-track entry
Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha kicked off a two-day trip to Vietnam on Thursday, where she is expected to push for a fast-track entry system for essential travelers amid coronavirus travel restrictions.
She is scheduled to hold talks with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and discuss coordinating a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other bilateral and global matters. She later plans to pay a courtesy call on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Regarding a fast-track system between the countries, Kang told reporters at the Incheon International Airport Thursday morning that, “There remain areas that we need to focus on coordinating.”
She noted that the sides are trying to reach an agreement as there may be a slight discrepancy on “quarantine measures that [Vietnam] considers as necessary and what Korea considers as necessary.”
Kang added that important issues to discuss include resuming passenger flights and other ways to expand people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Korea has worked to arrange a fast-track procedure for Korean businesspeople traveling to key partner countries to minimize economic fallout amid global travel restrictions.
Kang called Vietnam a key partner that is part of Korea’s New Southern Policy, the Moon Jae-in administration’s initiative for economic and diplomatic cooperation with Southeast Asia and India.
“It is significant that Vietnam, a country we especially have a lot of people-to-people exchanges with, is the first Asean country I am visiting” since the coronavirus outbreak, she said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Vietnam is the second country Kang is visiting since the Covid-19 pandemic nearly halted face-to-face diplomacy. She visited Germany in August, her first overseas trip since February.
Last week, Kang held a series of virtual Asean-related meetings including the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), amid tensions between the United States and China and the stalled North Korea denuclearization talks.
Vietnam was the host of this year’s ARF and related events, although the Covid-19 pandemic prevented diplomats from gathering in person.
Countries adopted the annual ARF chairman’s statement ARF Hanoi Plan of Action II.
Foreign ministers in the 2020 ARF chairman’s statement recognized “the efforts and achievements made by all the parties concerned for advancing the peace process on the Korean Peninsula over the last two years and urged all concerned parties to resume peaceful dialogue and continue working constructively towards the achievement of lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.”
The statement “noted the international efforts to bring about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and urged North Korea to fulfill its commitments and “pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests.”
The ministers also noted Seoul’s “proposals to advance inter-Korean relations” and added that Asean-led platforms such as the ARF can promote “a conducive atmosphere to peaceful dialogue amongst the concerned parties.”
They also “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea” and recognized the benefits of maintaining it “as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.”
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]