UPDATE : 2019.8.18 SUN 07:52
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President Moon returns from trip to Vietnam, UAE

President Moon Jae-in returned home Wednesday following his trip to Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for talks on ways to improve South Korea's bilateral relations with the countries.

The two-nation tour began Thursday when Moon headed to Vietnam for a bilateral summit with his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Dai Quang.

The two leaders noted their countries' relationship has steadily improved since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1992.

They agreed it was time for the bilateral relationship to move onto the next stage, vowing efforts to further upgrade the countries' strategic cooperative partnership by expanding and deepening exchanges between their central and local governments, parliaments, political parties and social organizations.

Moon's first state visit to Vietnam also included talks with three other top leaders of Vietnam, including Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party, and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

His trip to the UAE also marked the first of its kind since he took office in May 2017.

The official visit, however, came rather hastily amid reports of a possible row between the two countries over what has been partly confirmed as a secret agreement signed by Seoul's former Lee Myung-bak administration that would require automatic involvement of the South Korean military in armed conflicts affecting the Middle Eastern nation.

Moon was forced to send his chief of staff Im Jong-seok as a special envoy to the UAE late last year on an apparent fence-mending mission. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan sent his envoy at the beginning of the year and invited the South Korean president to visit.

The two leaders appeared to have put any dispute they had in the past when they held a bilateral summit in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, in which they agreed to upgrade the countries' relationship to a "special strategic partnership."

Moon said the countries' relationship remained "very special and strong," insisting there had been no disputes and even if there were, they have only made the relationship stronger.

The UAE leader promised to give South Korean companies US$25 billion worth of new energy development projects, according to Moon's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Seoul, on the other hand, promised to expand its nuclear and defense cooperation with the Middle Eastern nation.

This, according to the president, will include joint efforts to develop and produce new defense systems and sell them to third countries.

Moon and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi also agreed to meet regularly.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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