x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

S Korean leader upbeat on ties

The South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visits the UAE, and says there are countless areas where the two nations can create a "win-win situation."

ABU DHABI // South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrived in the UAE yesterday for a three-day state visit that will include an inspection of the site of the UAE's first nuclear reactor, which will be built by a Korean consortium.

Mr Lee told the state news agency WAM that relations between the countries had extended beyond trade and into cultural and social exchange.

"I expect that the horizon of bilateral co-operation will continue to expand into other areas, including new and renewable energy, information and communications technology and finance," he said.

Mr Lee is also expected to receive the Zayed International Prize for the Environment in the field of global leadership at a ceremony tomorrow.

He was expected yesterday to visit with South Korean special forces troops, who have been stationed in Al Ain since January to help train UAE forces.

But the centrepiece of the trip will be a groundbreaking ceremony in Braka, in the Western Region, where work will soon begin on the nuclear power plant that is a collaboration between South Korea and the UAE.

"Nuclear power is an important source of energy that will play a critical role in the post-fossil fuel era. The true value of nuclear power consists in its peaceful utilisation," Mr Lee told WAM.

"As our two countries work together sharing technology, experiences and human resources in the nuclear sector, I expect that the horizon of bilateral co-operation will continue to expand into other areas, including new and renewable energy, information and communications technology, and finance," Mr Lee said.

The South Korean consortium Kepco is building the UAE's nuclear power plants, with the first one expected to become operational by 2017.

If the US$20 billion (Dh73.5bn) project proceeds according to its timetable, it will become the Arab world's first civilian nuclear programme.

Mr Lee will also meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

On the last day of his visit he will meet in Dubai with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Mr Lee said he was "delighted" to be recognised with the Zayed International Prize for leading green growth initiatives, which he described as enabling "sustainable living by simultaneously pursuing the preservation of the environment and economic growth".

"In 2009, Korea was the first in the world to legislate the Framework Act on Low Carbon and Green Growth," he said. "Every year we invest more than 2 per cent of our GDP into green growth sectors and we endeavour to develop clean energies such as nuclear power. In addition, Korea is exerting efforts to nurture electric vehicles and a smart grid as new growth engines."

Relations between the two countries are going well, especially after the UAE joined other nations in condemning an artillery attack by North Korea that killed two soldiers on a South Korean island last November.

In the first 11 months of last year, trade volume between South Korea and the UAE reached $15.7bn. The UAE is South Korea's largest export market in the region.

South Korea imports more oil from the UAE than from any other country except Saudi Arabia, and there are 5,500 Koreans in the UAE.

Mr Lee said there is room for the two countries' relationship to deepen. "There are a countless number of areas where our two nations will be able to create a win-win situation," he said.