S. Korea, Mekong nations agree to closer cooperation

BUSAN, S. Korea (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Republic of Korea and five Southeast Asian countries surrounding the Mekong River have adopted a second action plan outlining the long-term vision and priority projects for their cooperation until 2020.

The three-year action plan and projects were endorsed by top diplomats from South Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam at the 7th Mekong-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Busan on Friday. The meeting was co-chaired by Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms Kang Kyung-wha and Lao Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Saleumxay Kommasith and attended by leaders from other Mekong nations.

Mr Saleumxay said he appreciated the ROK’s assistance in boosting economic integration in the Mekong region and helping newer Asean member countries to catch up with other older Asean nations.

 “Apart from being a dialogue partner of Asean, the ROK is also an important development partner for the Mekong region, and the cooperation between our countries has been greatly developed since the establishment of the Mekong-ROK cooperation framework,” he said.

The action plan for 2017-2020 laid out a three-point partnership vision including Asean connectivity, sustainable development and human-centered development.

Meanwhile the key cooperation projects comprised infrastructure, information and communications technology, green growth, water management, human resources, and rural and agricultural development.

Five new projects which have been endorsed during the meeting will be financed through the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund.

The ROK has allocated US$1 million per year to the Fund since 2015, and this has enabled the Fund to become a durable framework for further deepening the Mekong-ROK partnership.

In this regard, the ministers reiterated the importance of the ROK’s enduring commitment to increasing its funding.

Laos proposed a project known as “Master Plan Establishment and Capacity Building for the Modernisation and Advancement of Hydro-meteorological Infrastructure at the Mekong River Basin in Laos” which was adopted at the meeting.

The one-and-a-half-year project will cost up to US$350,000 and will be implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment.

Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the enhanced connectivity and rapid economic growth in this critical region of the Mekong will greatly expedite the realisation of the Asean community.

“It is in the interest of Korea as well, since the advancement and prosperity of the Asean community will in turn promote both Asean-ROK and Mekong-ROK economic cooperation, benefiting people across the region,” she said.

During the meeting, ministers recognised the need to maintain the momentum of regional economic growth and prosperity and reiterated the important role of the private sector in boosting the economy and sustaining development in the region.

The ministers also agreed to work closely in organising the Fifth Mekong-ROK Business Forum, which will be held under the title of “Promoting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the Tourism Industry in Mekong Countries and the Republic of Korea” and take place in Vientiane on October 19-20. The aim is to promote economic cooperation between Mekong nations and the ROK and boost trade, investment and tourism as well as strengthen small and medium enterprises.