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President Park Geun-hye called Sunday for South Korea's participation in Vietnam's planned construction of nuclear power plants, saying the project will "open up a new horizon" in economic cooperation between the two countries.
Park made the remark during a dinner meeting with economic officials and business leaders of the two countries, stressing that economic cooperation between the two sides should be shifted from focusing on small-scale industries to high-tech, high value-added sectors.
"If cooperation for nuclear power plant construction materializes, it will not only contribute greatly to the stable growth of Vietnam's economy, but also open up a new horizon in economic cooperation between the two countries," Park said during the meeting.
Park arrived in Hanoi on Saturday for a five-day visit billed by officials as the starting point for her "sales diplomacy" drive. The drive is described as a commitment to use diplomatic trips and meetings to promote South Korea's economic interests so as to help Asia's fourth-largest economy recover from a prolonged slump.
She is scheduled to hold a summit with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on Monday for talks mainly about economic cooperation, such as how to forge a mutually beneficial free trade agreement and strengthen cooperation in nuclear power and industrial technology.
Park described Vietnam as a member of the fast-growing "VIP" economies that also include Indonesia and the Philippines. She said her first trip to Vietnam among Southeast Asian nations shows her firm belief that the two countries can build a bright future together.
Park noted that trade volume between the two countries jumped 44-fold from less than $500 million in 1992, when the sides established diplomatic relations, to US$21.6 billion last year, three years earlier than originally targeted.
"We have to build on achievements in economic cooperation from the past 20 years to open up a new 20 years," she said.
Park also called for an early conclusion of a free trade agreement with Vietnam.
Vietnam plans to build 10 nuclear reactors by 2030, and South Korea hopes to take part in the construction of two of them, more than 1,000 megawatts each. The two-reactor projects are worth about US$10 billion. Russia and Japan are also vying for participation.
South Korean firms are also trying to win a $3.6 billion project to build two, 1,000-megawatt, coal-powered thermal power plants in the Long Phu district in southern Vietnam. They are also hoping to win a $2.3 billion project to build two 600-megawatt thermal power plants in the Nghi Son economic zone in northern Vietnam.
Other projects South Korea is pushing for include acquiring a 44-percent stake in a combined cycle thermal power plant in the Nhon Trach district in southeastern Vietnam and building and operating an underground oil storage terminal in Dung Quat in southern Vietnam.
"An important point of this visit is 'sales diplomacy,'" said senior presidential foreign affairs secretary Ju Chul-ki. "President Park is putting forward 'sales diplomacy' as the most important task in the second half of this year. That is why we chose Vietnam" as Park's third overseas trip after visits to the United States and China.
During Monday's summit, Park plans to stress the technological edge of South Korean-built nuclear reactors as well as their improved safety features, while asking for Vietnam's support for Korean firms trying to participate in the atomic power plant construction project.
She also plans to ask for Hanoi's support for Korean firms in other infrastructure projects.
Park will also propose a series of development aid projects for Vietnam, including one that calls for establishing a science technology research institute, known as V-KIST, modeled after the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Ju said.
A series of memorandums of understanding will also be signed, he said.
On Sunday, Park was scheduled to attend a dinner meeting of South Korean and Vietnamese business leaders, where she is expected to call for greater economic cooperation between the two countries, officials said.
Source: Yonhap News (Sep. 8, 2013)