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Korean, Romanian leaders discuss defense tech, nuclear energy

First lady absent at official reception

April 23, 2024 - 15:45 By Son Ji-hyoung
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from left) guides his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis (left), to a welcoming ceremony at the presidential office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Pool photo via Yonhap)

The leaders of South Korea and Romania agreed to seek bilateral cooperation in diverse fields, particularly with the defense industry and nuclear energy in focus, during a summit held in Seoul on Tuesday.

"I hope (Iohannis's visit to Korea) this year could help our discussion related to military equipment and nuclear energy bear fruit," President Yoon Suk Yeol said in the welcoming remarks of the summit.

"Today, we can take our bilateral strategic partnership to the next level. (Seoul) places a high value on the strategic partnership we have fostered in the past 15 years, and the partnership has laid a firm groundwork for putting the bilateral cooperations into action," Yoon said.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis described the two countries' cooperation in military equipment and green energy as being "realistic and practical." The Romanian leader is currently on a four-day official visit to South Korea.

Iohannis was the first Romanian president to hold a summit with a South Korean President in 16 years. He also became the third Romanian President to have held talks with his South Korean counterpart, after Ion Iliescu and Traian Basescu.

During the summit, the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral dialogue on defense-related issues, according to the joint statement. Defense Minister Shin Won-shik and his Romanian counterpart Angel Tilvar attended the signing ceremony after the summit.

They agreed to increase their cooperation in the defense industry through joint production of military equipment and defense technology cooperation, but officials did not elaborate on the details.

Both sides will also cooperate in the fields of military education, training and military medicine, according to the statement.

According to the presidential office, the Romanian government is "in talks" with South Korea over importing South Korean military equipment, in a follow-up action after Romania signed a deal in November to purchase a portable surface-to-air missile defense system produced by South Korean company LIG Nex1.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) receives his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis (second from left), during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Pool photo via Yonhap)

In green energy, Seoul and Bucharest agreed to consult on participation in joint energy projects with a focus on technologies for nuclear energy, hydrogen and renewable energy.

Particularly in the field of nuclear energy, the two countries' cooperation will involve both large-scale reactors and small modular reactors.

The two countries shared a common understanding of the importance of nuclear energy in combating climate change, according to the statement.

Yoon's office said that Seoul was looking for opportunitiesfor South Korean companies to take part in nuclear reactor refurbishment projects and small modular reactor construction in Romania. South Korea's state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power in October joined forces with Canada's Candu Energy and Italy's Ansaldo Nucleare to refurbish an aging nuclear reactor in Romania's Cernavoda power plant.

Seoul and Bucharest's cooperation will also revolve around cultural, educational and people-to-people cooperation, as well as disaster management.

The two countries' trade volume came to $1.5 billion in 2023, reaching an all-time high. The trade volume rose 44.2 percent compared with that of 2020.

On the diplomatic front, Yoon and Iohannis stressed a need for rules-based international order, blasting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, North Korea's illegal nuclear and missile programs, as well as Pyongyang's military cooperation with Moscow. The two also underscored their determination to cooperate to support Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction by capitalizing on Romania’s strategic position and South Korea's expertise.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) shakes hands with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis during Iohannis's official visit to South Korea at Yoon's office on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The first ladies of the two countries -- Kim Keon Hee of South Korea and Carmen Johannis of Romania -- were not seen during the welcoming reception at Yoon's office. The two were to have separate and private meetings outside the presidential office, according to officials.

Iohannis began his official visit to South Korea on Monday. He attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery in Seoul and went to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with North Korea.

On Wednesday, Iohannis is poised to visit Doosan Enerbility's plant manufacturing components for nuclear reactors in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. Iohannis is departing Seoul on Thursday.