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Korea, Uzbekistan sign critical mineral supply chain agreement

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev review an honor guard at an official welcome ceremony held at the presidential palace in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Friday. Yonhap

President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev review an honor guard at an official welcome ceremony held at the presidential palace in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Friday. Yonhap

President Yoon Suk Yeol and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed Friday to collaborate on the supply chains of critical minerals, from their exploration and development to refining and commercialization.

The agreement came at summit talks held in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to strengthen the special strategic partnership in a wide field of areas, including minerals, energy and infrastructure.

During the talks, the two sides signed an agreement of cooperation on a critical mineral partnership to pave the way for comprehensive cooperation, ranging from joint exploration to the final use of minerals.

"The two countries agreed to maximize synergy in the supply chain cooperation by combining Uzbekistan's abundant mineral resources and South Korea's advanced technology," Yoon said in a joint press conference.

Uzbekistan boasts abundant core minerals, such as tungsten and molybdenum, used in semiconductors and secondary batteries, making it an attractive partner for South Korea's high-tech industries.

The agreements are aimed at developing a partnership covering the entire cycle of exploration, mining and refining of key minerals, including lithium, and giving Korean companies priority in developing economically viable minerals, the presidential office said.

The two leaders also agreed to collaborate in the transport sector and expand financial support for Korean companies bidding on projects in Uzbekistan.

Hyundai Rotem inked a $200 million deal to supply six high-speed trains to Uzbekistan Railways Corp. and the two countries' state-run railroad operators also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation for train maintenance services.

"The deal marks South Korea's first export of high-speed trains developed with homegrown technology," Yoon said. "It is expected to contribute to the improvement of Uzbekistan's railway infrastructure and help enhance the bilateral cooperation in the railway sector."

Additionally, South Korea upgraded the basic agreement on the Economic Development Cooperation Fund to double the upper limit to $2 billion for the 2024-27 period to support development projects.

South Korea has increased the upper limit of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund's basic agreement to $2 billion for the 2024-2027 period to support development projects.

The increased funding will aid in the second phase of constructing a pharmaceutical cluster at Tashkent Pharmaceutical University for drug development research and clinical trials.

During the summit, Yoon and Mirziyoyev discussed ways to implement Seoul's "K-Silk Road Cooperation" initiative centered on linking South Korea's innovative capabilities with Central Asia's resources and development potential.

Uzbekistan is the most populous country among the five Central Asian countries, with more than half of its 36 million population under the age of 30.

The summit also covered the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Uzbekistan, known for advocating a nuclear-free Central Asia, expressed support for South Korea's efforts toward North Korea's complete denuclearization and adherence to United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding its missile and nuclear activities.

"We discussed the recent security situation on the Korean Peninsula and agreed to continue to join international efforts toward North Korea's denuclearization. I appreciate Uzbekistan's continued support for our North Korea policy," Yoon said.

Yoon's state visit to Uzbekistan marks the first since 2019, when the two nations elevated their bilateral relations to the special strategic partnership, the only one of its kind in Central Asia.

After the summit, Yoon visited Techno Park to inspect Samsung Electronics' home appliance assembly line, and attended a business forum involving about 600 government officials and businesspeople of both nations.

They include SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and POSCO Group Chairman Chang In-hwa.

On the sidelines of the event, over 20 MOUs and documents were signed between the two countries' governments and companies to facilitate trade and investment in resources, transportation, energy and other areas. (Yonhap)


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