Thursday, October 22, 2009

S. Korean president begins visit to Cambodia

By Byun Duk-kun
"An agreement will also be signed later Thursday on Cambodia's provision of 200,000 hectares of land, over 10 times the size of Washington D.C., for forest plantation by South Korea."

KI-Media Note: Such land agreement is against the Cambodian constitution as it exceeds the 10,000 hectares maximum
PHNOM PENH, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak began a two-day trip to Cambodia with a visit to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni shortly after his arrival here Thursday.

Lee was set for a bilateral summit with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen later in the day.

"President Lee and King Sihamoni discussed ways to expand cooperation between their countries in various areas, including the agricultural and cultural sectors, while the president noted the development of their relationship since the normalization of their ties in 1997," Lee's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

Lee's trip here comes as part of a three-nation tour that earlier took him to Vietnam. He will head to Thailand on Friday for a regional summit hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that will also involve the leaders of Japan and China.

The trip was expected to help significantly improve Seoul's relations with Phnom Penh as the sides were set to sign an extradition treaty and a revision to the basic agreement on South Korea's Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF).

Seoul agreed in June to provide US$60 million in loans from its development fund in a summit between Lee and the Cambodian prime minister held in Seoul.

The revision to the EDCF agreement, to be signed on the sidelines of the Lee-Hun Sen summit, will lead to the provision of an additional $140 million by 2012, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

"As we face a great opportunity to further improve our countries' relationship this year through an exchange of visits with Prime Minister Hun Sen, I hope the countries will hold discussions on various measures for their joint development during my visit this time," Lee said in an interview with Cambodia's largest-circulation daily Rasmei Campuchea published Thursday.

South Korean investment in Cambodia increased 75 times to nearly $2.5 billion last year since their diplomatic normalization in 1997. Seoul had severed its ties with Cambodia in 1975 when the communist Khmer Rouge government took control.

Seoul has agreed to launch a joint development project for Phnom Penh, through which it will help set up "master plans" for the development of Cambodia while sharing its own development experience with the country, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman.

An agreement will also be signed later Thursday on Cambodia's provision of 200,000 hectares of land, over 10 times the size of Washington D.C., for forest plantation by South Korea.

"Considering the complementary nature of their economies and the enactment of a free trade agreement between South Korea and ASEAN, as well as Cambodia's rapid economic growth, the cooperation between the countries will continue to show remarkable growth," Lee said in the interview with Rasmei Campuchea, held in Seoul before starting his trip.

The signing of the extradition treaty, to apply to those suspected of crimes punishable by two or more years of imprisonment, will help improve South Korea's image here, spokeswoman Kim said.

"It will also help protect the citizens and South Korean residents in Cambodia by making sure that Southeast Asia will no longer be the safe haven of criminals," she said.

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