Sunday, March 25, 2012

Korea, India agree to boost defense cooperation

The leaders of South Korea and India agreed to bolster defense cooperation Sunday by continuing high-level contacts and exploring joint research in the field.

In a joint statement after their summit at Cheong Wa Dae, President Lee Myung-bak and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to explore the possibilities of joint ventures in the research and development, and manufacture of military equipment.

President Lee welcomed Prime Minister Singh’s announcement of a plan to set up a defense wing at the Embassy of India in Seoul within this year.

Lee and Singh signed the 33-point statement to further strengthen bilateral ties nearly two years after the two sides agreed to upgrade relations to a strategic partnership in January 2010.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a kind of a free trade pact, as bilateral trade has increased nearly 70 percent after the deal took effect in January 2010.

Last year, trade between the two nations hit $20 billion.

President Lee said the bilateral trade target of $40 billion by 2015, which was proposed by Prime Minister Singh, is “an attainable goal,” saying the two sides agreed to strengthen private and public partnerships to make it happen.

Lee said he and the Indian leader exchanged views on U.N. Security Council (UNSC) reform, adding the two sides agreed on many points.

The President didn’t elaborate on what he meant by those remarks.

India has sought to get a permanent seat in the UNSC.

During his visit to India in 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed a plan to support India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UNSC.

Supporters of the UNSC reform claimed the current five permanent members _ the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France _ have not properly represented the voices of emerging powers.

Regarding North Korea, Lee and Singh voiced concern over its planned launch of a rocket which was announced on March 16. They urged the North not to do anything that could escalate tension in the region.

Lee and Singh also agreed to strengthen cooperation for peaceful exploration of outer space as envisaged in a memorandum of understanding signed between the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and the Indian Space Research Organization.

The Indian leader invited Korean companies to participate in construction projects for highways, ports, airports, subways and power plants.

India plans to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure projects from 2012 to 2017.

The two leaders held the talks after a welcoming ceremony in the presidential office, which was followed by a luncheon.

President Lee also met Prime Minister of New Zealand John Phillip Key and Jordanian King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and New Zealand, and Korea and Jordan.

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