South Korea and Uzbekistan agree on joint oil exploration

May 11, 2005 02:00 AM

South Korea and Uzbekistan agreed to increase bilateral cooperation in oil exploration and trade and to work together closely to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons crisis peacefully.
The agreement was reached during a summit between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov at the latter's office in Tashkent, according to Seoul officials accompanying the president on his three-day state visit to Uzbekistan.

At the summit, Roh and Karimov agreed to implement practical cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, resources, energy, automobiles and textiles, among others, while expressing satisfaction at recent trends in two-way economic ties, said the officials.
In particular, the leaders agreed on the participation of South Korean businesses in developing oil and gas fields in the Aral Sea, they explained.

At the end of the summit meeting, the two leaders signed a 16- point joint declaration committing both countries to further boost bilateralties. In the joint declaration, Uzbekistan vowed support for South Korea's peace and prosperity policy for the Northeast Asian region as well as its efforts to peacefully settle the North Korean nuclear crisis through the six-party talks.
The multilateral talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia have been stalled since last June due to Pyongyang's boycott. The declaration also calls for joint participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan's economic infrastructure.

In addition, Roh and Karimov agreed to work closely to assist the ethnic Korean community in Uzbekistan. The more than 230,000 Korean Uzbeks living in the country, the largest ethnic-Korean population in Central Asia, are mostly the descendants of Koreans who had settled in the Soviet Far East but were forcibly moved to Central Asia by Stalin after World War II.
The two countries' foreign and industry ministers also signed four two-way accords on social security for industrial workers; joint exploitation of oil, gas and other natural resources; cooperation in textile technologies; and South Korea's help in Uzbekistan's construction of a comprehensive geographical information system.

The heads of the Korea National Oil Corp., Korea Resources and several other South Korean companies signed seven separate agreements and memorandums of understanding for the joint development of oil, gas, gold, uranium and other natural resources in Uzbekistan.
Roh's arrival marks the first visit of its kind since former President Kim Young-sam visited Uzbekistan in 1994. Roh's visit was arranged in return for a visit to South Korea by Karimov in October 1999.

The visit follows Roh's three-day visit to Moscow for the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Prior to his arrival, Roh said Seoul will deal calmly with the North Korean nuclear problem.
"The South Korean government will be flexible (towards the North's nuclear issue), but will stick to the principles and cope calmly with it," Roh was quoted as telling. His remarks are seen as a reconfirmation of Seoul's intention to resolve diplomatically the nuclear crisis within the framework of the six-party talks.

Roh is to announce plans to invite up to 1,000 ethnic Koreans in Uzbekistan to South Korea as industrial trainees in the coming years. Roh will meet with members of the local ethnic Korean community in Uzbekistan.
He is also scheduled to stop in Samarkand, the ancient Central Asian city that was a pivotal trading centre on the Silk Road that once linked Asia and Europe, before returning home.

Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific
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