South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday highlighted the importance of cooperation and exchange with Vietnam, calling the country an irreplaceable friend and partner.
"My thoughts about Vietnam are very special. I believe those of our countries' people will not be so different," Moon said while meeting with 300 South Korean officials, businesspeople and residents in Hanoi. Attendees also included dozens of Vietnamese people who have lived or studied in South Korea.
The South Korean leader arrived in Hanoi earlier in the day on a three-day state visit. He is set to hold a bilateral summit with his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Dai Quang, on Friday.
Moon said his country and Vietnam shared many similarities, including their history of being colonized.
"And over the past 26 years since the two countries joined hands, miraculous things have happened," he said. Seoul and Hanoi established diplomatic ties in 1992.
"Last year, the amount of trade between the two countries reached US$64 billion while the number of visitors between the countries grew to 2.7 million. Vietnam has become South Korea's fourth-largest trading partner while South Korea is Vietnam's second-largest trading partner and also the largest investor nation," the South Korean president told the meeting.
"South Korea and Vietnam have now become partners who cannot do without each other. Your contributions are what made us reach here," he added.
Moon called for increased cooperation and exchange between the countries and their people.
Referring to South Korea by its official name, he said, "Our government is pursuing the New South Policy to expand the Republic of Korea's diplomatic and economic horizon to ASEAN and the Indian Ocean. Vietnam is the most valuable partner for cooperation in that process. The New South Policy will bring joint prosperity for both countries. And the foundation of building a strong relationship between the two countries starts with winning the heart of the people of Vietnam. I believe you, my fellow citizens, will play a great role to this end."
He continued, "Our government, too, will actively support our fellow citizens to live more happily in Vietnam."
Turning to domestic issues, the South Korean president said his country had successfully hosted the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, insisting their success can partly be seen in the recent rapprochement between the two Koreas.
"Soon, the leaders of the South and the North, the U.S. and North Korea will meet simultaneously," Moon said, referring to his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month. "They constitute a very precious opportunity we must not miss. We are very cautious about the process and cannot be too optimistic, but I do believe in the strength of the Republic of Korea."