Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Korea, Turkmenistan sign deals on energy, infrastructure cooperation

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Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow shake hands during a joint press briefing on the results of their bilateral summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

President Yoon Suk Yeol and Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow adopted on Monday a joint statement strengthening energy cooperation and setting in motion the “K-Silk Road” initiative, Korea’s new strategy toward the Central Asian region.  
 
The two leaders held a bilateral summit in Turkmenistan’s capital of Ashgabat, the first leg of Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee’s six-day, three-country trip to Central Asia.  
 
Yoon’s state visits to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan comes as his administration introduces its new “K-Silk Road Cooperation” strategy, aiming to create a new cooperation model linking Korea’s innovative capabilities with Central Asia’s development potential and abundant resources. This is the Yoon government’s third regional strategy trailing those targeting the Indo-Pacific region and Asean nations.  
 
In the joint statement, Turkmenistan expressed support for this new initiative, along with Yoon’s proposal to establish a summit with five countries in the Central Asian region, also involving Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  
 
The presidential office said Yoon’s trip is expected to lay the foundation for Seoul to host the inaugural Korea-Central Asia summit next year.  
 
The two leaders in the statement further agreed to promote prosperity by further developing mutually beneficial partnerships in sectors including economy, infrastructure, shipbuilding, textiles, transportation, health care and climate change.  
 
The summit also served as a springboard for Korean companies to secure more opportunities to secure energy and construction projects in the resource-rich country, known to hold the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves.  
 

Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow take part in an official welcoming ceremony ahead of their bilateral summit at the presidential palace in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow take part in an official welcoming ceremony ahead of their bilateral summit at the presidential palace in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The two countries signed eight memorandums of understanding (MOU) and agreements on this day, including on trade and investment, gas fields, infrastructure and new city cooperation, according to the presidential office.  
 
Korea and Turkmenistan signed a Trade and Investment Promotion Framework, a nonbinding agreement aimed at comprehensive economic cooperation, the third of its kind with a Central Asian nation.  
 
Hyundai Engineering and Turkmen state gas company Turkmengaz signed a framework agreement to build a fourth desulfurization facility at the Galkynysh gas field. The large natural gas field in Turkmenistan’s southeastern Mary Province, discovered in 2006, is one of the world’s five largest gas fields with estimated reserves of up to 14 trillion cubic meters, which can be used by the world’s population for five years, according to the presidential office.  
 
Hyundai Engineering won an order for the first desulfurization facility for the Galkynysh gas field in 2009, and the $8.5 billion project was the largest of its kind in Turkmenistan at the time.
 
Hyundai Engineering also signed a cooperation agreement with Turkmenhimiya, a state chemical company, to resume the stable operation of the Kiyanly Polymer Plant in Turkmenistan’s western province of Balkan, to manage the second phase out of a three-stage process on reconstruction. A Hyundai-led consortium first secured a deal in 2013, but the plant halted operations last year.
 
The Kiyanly petrochemical complex was built by a global consortium including Korean companies such as Hyundai Engineering and LG International and commissioned in 2018.
 
This comes as Korean companies have been seeking to participate in urea and ammonia fertilizer production plant projects in Kiyanly.
 
Korea has been keen on diversifying is urea imports to find alternative supply chains amid concerns over China’s tightening export controls. The chemical compound is used to produce fertilizer and diesel exhaust fluid to reduce emissions in vehicles.
 

President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and first lady Kim Keon Hee plant trees in a ceremony at a park near the Independence Monument in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, during their state visit to the Central Asian country Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and first lady Kim Keon Hee plant trees in a ceremony at a park near the Independence Monument in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, during their state visit to the Central Asian country Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, Korea and Turkmenistan have made remarkable strides in our relationship, focusing on cooperation in energy and plant projects,” Yoon said in a joint press conference after the summit.  
 
He added that the two sides “decided to further deepen and develop our mutually beneficial partnership by strengthening our existing cooperation and expanding its horizon in a future-oriented manner.
 
Berdimuhamedow highlighted that the two countries “see an enormous potential for cooperation in creating a supercontinent shipping route from Asia to Europe” and confirmed their “mutual interest in expanding cooperation in the energy sector.”
 
He also expressed support for Yoon’s “K-Silk Road” initiative and Korea’s growing role in the global stage.  
 
The two leaders agreed that the United Nations plays a central role in resolving global issues, maintaining international peace and security and promoting sustainable development. They further agreed that a peaceful resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue and its complete denuclearization would contribute to international peace and prosperity.
 
Yoon is the third Korean president to visit Turkmenistan.  
 
He was set to give an address at a business forum attended by businesspeople from both countries Tuesday morning.  
 

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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