Vietnam agrees atomic power ties with S. Korea

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South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak (right) ushers his Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang during a ceremony in Seoul. AFP

Vietnam agreed on Tuesday to seek greater nuclear energy cooperation with South Korea, opening the way for its participation in the development of an atomic power plants in energy-hungry Vietnam.

The agreement was reached during talks between Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-Bak, Lee's office said.

The statement is a confirmation of the two sides' commitment to the cooperation, rather than an indication that South Korea will get an order to build a reactor, a Bloomberg report quoted the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy as saying in a separate statement.

Sang is in South Korea for a three-day visit.

The leaders agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation for peaceful use of atomic power, a joint statement said.

"The two sides took a special note of South Korea's proposals on developing Vietnam's nuclear power plant based on South Korean technologies, nurturing human resources, transferring technologies and cooperation in other related areas," it said.

South Korea operates 20 nuclear plants, which generate some 35 percent of its electricity needs, and plans to build 12 more over the next 14 years.

It has vowed to stick to its atomic power development despite heightened concerns following Japan's earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that caused the world's worst atomic accident in 25 years.

Fast-growing Vietnam faces energy shortages and foreign businesses have expressed concern about a lack of energy and other infrastructure.

Hanoi has recently sought co-operation with nuclear-capable countries to help boost its needs.

Last month it Japan officially secured support to help build two nuclear reactors in Vietnam and in October last year Hanoi signed a deal with Russia worth an estimated $5.6 billion for its first nuclear power plant.

"˜Strategic' partners

South Korea and Vietnam have boosted economic and diplomatic relations since they normalized ties in 1992. Two-way trade totaled $12.9 billion last year.

The two nations established a strategic partnership in 2009 and have decided to make 2012 the "Vietnam-Republic of Korea Friendship Year" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

They agreed to boost trade to $20 billion earlier than their target year of 2015 and further to $30 billion.

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