July 30, 2008

South Korea, Kuwait Discuss Energy Cooperation

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

[Yonhap headline: "S. Korea, Kuwait Discuss Energy Cooperation"]

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) - The South Korean prime minister met with his Kuwaiti counterpart in Seoul on Wednesday, agreeing to boost energy and economic cooperation between the two countries, officials here said.

Resource-poor South Korea is heavily dependent on oil imports and has been intensifying "energy diplomacy," a flagship policy of the market-oriented Lee Myung-bak [Yi Myo'ng-pak] administration, inaugurated in February. South Korea is the world's fifth-biggest oil importer, with annual purchases reaching around 900 million barrels, according to recent statistics.

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo [Han Su'ng-su] and Kuwaiti Premier Shaykh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah had a "very useful discussion" on the future economic cooperation of the two countries, especially in the field of energy, Han's office said.

"Among other things, we hope for more active cooperation with Arab nations, including your country, on energy resources," Han told Shaykh Nasser, according to pool reports. "In addition, we expect substantial progress on cooperation in the fields of construction plants and other sectors based on mutual trust."

Prime Minister Shaykh Nasser also acknowledged the importance of strong economic ties, noting the fact South Korea is currently the second-largest importer of crude oil from his country after Japan, officials said.

Ministers from the two countries, who also attended Wednesday's meeting, signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) pledging cooperation in various areas of diplomacy, sports and environment.

Kuwait, one of South Korea's most important trading partners among the 22 Arab member states, is active in developing industrial projects as well as social infrastructure such as oil fields, production plants, power generation and freshwater facilities.

The 22 Arab nations possess nearly 60 per cent of the world's oil reserves and some 30 per cent of liquefied natural gas reserves, according to South Korean government statistics. They account for 70 per cent of Seoul's crude oil imports and 48 per cent of its natural gas imports.

The Kuwaiti prime minister, who is the first high-ranking official of his country to visit Seoul since the inauguration of Seoul's new leader, will also meet with President Lee Myung-bak [Yi Myo'ng-pak] and National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o during his three-day visit.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 0841 30 Jul 08.

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