(VIP) Philippines, Korea signed to bolster Trade, Agriculture and Defense cooperation; Dozen Fighter jets deal

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III shake hands ahead of a summit in Seoul on Oct. 17. (Yonhap)

S. Korea, Philippines agree to bolster defense industry cooperation

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III agreed Thursday to cooperate closely to boost defense industry cooperation between the two countries as South Korea seeks to export military hardware to the Southeast Asian nation.

The agreement was one of the key points of a summit between Park and Aquino. On the sidelines of the summit, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for greater defense industry cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.

South Korea has been in negotiations with the Philippines to seal a deal to export a dozen Korean-made FA-50 fighter jets, a variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets. South Korea also hopes to export naval escort vessels to the Southeast Asian nation.

"The two leaders welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding on defense sector cooperation and agreed to enhance defense sector cooperation," the presidential office said in a statement.

Park expressed gratitude to Aquino for selecting the FA-50 in the country's fighter jet program and hoped the two countries will sign a contract at an early date, the office said. Aquino said he will try to ensure that defense industry cooperation with South Korea will go smoothly, the office said.

Park also asked for cooperation in other defense projects in the Philippines, including one aimed at purchasing naval escort vessels. Aquino was quoted as saying that it is no secret that the Philippines needs more vessels to defend its long coastline, and that Korean-made military hardware has been very useful to the country.

Aquino arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for a two-day visit, his first to South Korea since taking office in June 2010. He is also the first foreign leader to make a state visit to South Korea under Park.

The two leaders also agreed to work together to bolster trade, agricultural and other economic ties between the two countries. Park promised to actively provide the Philippines with official development assistance to help with sustainable development of the country, the office said.

The two sides also signed two more MOUs -- one on sports exchanges and the other on providing US$80 million in an economic development cooperation fund (EDCF) loan to the Philippines to build flood-control facilities and schools in the central region of Pampanga.

Addressing security issues, Park asked for the Philippine government to send a clear and consistent message to North Korea to help prod the communist nation to give up its nuclear programs. Aquino welcomed Park's policy on Pyongyang and promised to do whatever he could for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the presidential office said.

At the start of the talks, Park offered condolences over a deadly earthquake that struck the country Tuesday and left at least 156 people dead.

"I am aware that an earthquake happened in the Philippines and inflicted much damage. I extend my deep condolences to the victims and their families," Park said at the start of the talks. "I saw news reports that the president visited the damaged site in person. I hope for a quick recovery."

Park also stressed how close the two countries have been so far, saying the Philippines is the first Southeast Asian nation to open diplomatic relations with Seoul and helped South Korea repel invading troops from North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian nation that participated in the war with North Korea, dispatching the fourth-largest contingent among 16 allied nations under a U.N. resolution. A total of 7,420 Filipino troops fought in the conflict, with 112 of them killed and a further 299 wounded.

"I am anticipating that the two countries will move toward an even more solid relationship of mutual cooperation," she said, adding that the Philippines is drawing international attention as a member of the "VIP" nations for its firm economic growth in recent years.

"VIP" is a term coined to refer to three rising Southeast Asian economies -- Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines --which some economists say could be the "post-BRICS" nations. BRICS refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.  (jschang@yna.co.kr)

Yonhap News Agency

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