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  Middle East & Africa
Korean-UAE Ties Growing Steadily, Says President Lee Myung-bak
President Lee waves hands shortly before embarking on an official visit to UAE on March 12. First Lady looks on at left.

Abu Dhabi, Mar 12th, 2011 (WAM)—The UAE-South Korean collaboration is making substantial progress on the strength of the agreement for the construction of nuclear power plants and the establishment of the strategic partnership between our two nations in December 2009, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told Emirates News Agency (WAM) in an interview.

He added that going beyond cooperation in such traditional areas as the economy and trade, the scope of bilateral ties is now expanding to include almost all areas, including cultural and social exchanges as well as security.

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

The execerpts of the interview

QUESTION 1: What are the key objectives of your visit? ANSWER: This will be my second visit to the United Arab Emirates, the first being in December 2009. This visit should provide the opportune chance to review the wide range of bilateral cooperation that has been under way since the establishment of the Korea-UAE strategic partnership a year ago.

During my stay, I am scheduled to attend a host of meaningful events. One of them is the awards ceremony for the Zayed International Prize for the Environment to be held in Dubai where I will receive the prize for global leadership. I will also participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the initial work at the proposed Braka nuclear power plant site, the project that has served as a catalyst for the remarkable advancement of Korea-UAE relations in the past year. In addition, I will visit the Korean Akh Special Forces Unit, which has been stationed in the Al Ain region since this past January and talk with the soldiers there. This is also a reflection of the close cooperation between our two countries.

As an important part of this effort, His Highness President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and I are scheduled to hold a summit, during which we will discuss ways to promote collaboration in various sectors, including energy, construction, the environment and health care.

In addition, I plan to have separate meetings with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to discuss ways for our two countries to work together.

QUESTION 2: What are the main topics you plan to discuss with UAE officials during your visit? ANSWER: During the summit, President Sheikh Khalifa and I will discuss the close cooperation between our two countries in the fields of economy and trade, which include joint cooperation in energy, construction and plant projects. We will also discuss ways to expand the scope of cooperation as strategic partners into a variety of areas including national defense and the environment.

It is important to note that our two countries have long maintained cooperative relations in the energy sector. And in light of the recent surge in oil prices, we are expected to discuss continued collaboration in this area. Other main topics will include cooperation in various sectors including future new growth engines.

QUESTION 3: In your view, is the strategic partnership between the UAE and Korea entering into a new phase? How can this evolve? ANSWER: Although we established diplomatic ties only in 1980, Korea and the UAE have achieved unprecedented and remarkable progress in bilateral relations in a relatively short period of time. UAE is currently Korea's second largest trading partner in the Middle East. And as Korea's second biggest supplier of crude oil, the UAE is also the key country for energy cooperation. In addition, a growing number of Korean businesses and people are expanding their presence in the UAE, contributing to the promotion of Korea-UAE relations and economic development in the UAE.

Korea-UAE collaboration is also making substantial progress on the strength of the agreement for the construction of nuclear power plants and the establishment of the strategic partnership between our two nations in December 2009. Going beyond cooperation in such traditional areas as the economy and trade, the scope of bilateral ties is now expanding to include almost all areas, including cultural and social exchanges as well as security.

With Etihad Airways commencing its first service to South Korea in December last year, operating from Abu Dhabi to Seoul's Incheon Airport, bilateral exchanges of material resources and people are gaining further momentum. The presence of Korea's Akh Special Forces Unit in the region of Al Ain is emblematic of the advancement of the strategic partnership.

What is even more encouraging is the fact that there is great potential for the relationship between our two nations to further expand and deepen. By promoting areas in one country that is lacking in the other, and helping to promote competitive advantages, there are a countless number of areas where our two nations will be able to create a win-win situation.

QUESTION 4: You have been chosen as the recipient of the 5th Zayed International Prize for the Environment in the global leadership category in recognition of your initiatives to pursue green growth, which is aimed at promoting economic growth while protecting the environment. Could you say a few words on being selected and about Korea's green growth policy? ANSWER: I am truly delighted to have been chosen as the recipient of the internationally renowned Zayed International Prize for the Environment. In particular, I am honored in that this prize embodies the visionary spirit about the environment of former President Zayed, a pioneer who turned the desert country of the UAE into an environment-friendly, green nation. Long before the founding of the UAE, the late President Zayed had laid a foundation for nation building by opening up waterways in the parched cities on the desert and planting trees. I believe that being awarded this prize as the first leader in the world for contributions to global green growth reflects the trailblazing spirit of the prize.

Green growth is a future-oriented growth paradigm that enables sustainable living by simultaneously pursuing the preservation of the environment and economic growth. This paradigm has now become a global vision advocated by OECD, the UN and the G20. In 2009, Korea was the first in the world to legislate the Framework Act on Low Carbon and Green Growth. Every year we invest more than 2 percent of our GDP into green growth sectors and we endeavor 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. As part of our efforts to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide, a culprit behind global warming, Korea is making preparations to introduce the carbon emissions trading system. In particular, given the fact that water constitutes a critical basis for survival, Korea is exerting great efforts to secure clean and abundant water resources through the Four Rivers Restoration Project.

At the same time, Korea is striving to contribute to spreading green growth, which we consider the key to future growth, to developing countries. We consider this crucial for the balanced development of the global economy. From 2008, the Korean Government has been carrying out the East Asia Climate Partnership. In June last year, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was launched in Korea for the purpose of establishing green growth strategies and systematically helping implement various green growth projects in developing nations. UAE is also participating in GGGI. We hope that this will promote even closer cooperation between our two countries in the effort to further global green growth.

QUESTION 5: The UAE-Korea agreement on developing peaceful nuclear power is a key feature of the cooperation between our two countries. How do you assess this agreement? ANSWER: In this age of climate change, 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 utilization.

Korea launched its first nuclear power plant in April 1978 and has since championed the peaceful use of this energy.

This experience of successfully installing and operating nuclear power plants for more than 30 years, combined with the country's unique technology in design and construction, has catapulted the Korean-type nuclear power generators to the top rung in the competitive global market.

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

QUESTION 6: The UAE will be taking part in the EXPO to be held in Korea in 2012. How can this help the UAE to present its culture and heritage to the people of Korea? ANSWER: The Republic of Korea will host the Expo from May 12 through August 12, 2012 in our beautiful southern coast city of Yeosu. The theme of the Expo 2012 is "The Living Ocean and Coast." It is estimated that 8 million visitors from more than 100 countries will attend this major global festival.

In recognition of the pressing need to conserve the environment, the Yeosu Expo will deal with various issues threatening humanity such as contamination of seawater, destruction of eco-systems and the rise of the sea level. I believe the Yeosu Expo will be a historic event which will highlight these concerns and present new visions for so-called "sustainable development." The UAE is well known to the Korean people through close bilateral interaction in the area of nuclear and other industrial sectors. Through UAE's participation in the Expo, I hope that the UAE will be able to effectively publicize its rich cultural legacies as well as its endeavors for developing and preserving marine resources. This could provide an important opportunity to further such knowledge about the UAE to visitors from Korea and other countries around the world.

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