By Kim Young-jin
President Lee Myung-bak and Myanmar President Thein Sein agreed Tuesday to begin negotiations on a pact that would safeguard bilateral investments, during talks in Seoul that sought to boost economic cooperation.
Such a pact would guarantee investments made between the two sides, Cheong Wa Dae said. In addition, the two leaders pledged to increase cooperation in energy, resources development and infrastructure in the Southeast Asian nation that recently implemented sweeping democratic reforms.
Lee and Thein Sein pledged to continue working closely on existing gas and power plant projects in Myanmar.
They also signed an agreement on development aid, with Seoul pledging to help Myanmar develop a state think tank on economic development.
Thein Sein’s three-day visit, which began Monday, came after Lee’s historic visit to Myanmar in May, during which he sought to reach out to the country rich in gas and mineral resources. He was the first Korean president to visit there since North Korea’s 1983 terrorist bombing of a Yangon memorial that killed 17 South Koreans, including Cabinet ministers.
Thein Sein has been praised internationally for his reforms that follow almost a half century of military rule. During the first summit, he also said that his government would refrain from weapons purchases from Pyongyang.
In addition to reserves of iron ore, zinc and nickel Myanmar is seen as having great growth potential in human resources and as a foothold to larger markets in China and India.
Seoul has resumed development assistance to Myanmar, which was halted in 2005 for human rights abuses of the regime at the time. Korea is striving to play a bridging role between advanced and developing countries and to share its development experience abroad.
Lee has frequently cited Myanmar’s reforms as an example for Pyongyang. But the two countries remain a study in contrasts as the international community has embraced the former’s democratic reforms while Pyongyang faces increasing isolation over its nuclear weapons program.