Mon. Jan 18th, 2021

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL/HANOI, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) — Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha paid a courtesy call on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Thursday as she started a two-day visit to Hanoi aimed at promoting cooperation in coronavirus responses and bilateral exchanges.

During the hourlong meeting, Kang stressed the need to implement a special program that would exempt essential business travelers from strict COVID-19 entry restrictions to help bolster economic exchanges between the two countries.

“There are still many small and medium-sized businesses that have difficulties because they can’t enter Vietnam due to the long quarantine period,” Kang was quoted by her office as saying.

“I hope for Prime Minster Phuc’s active support to ensure that the two countries can expeditiously wrap up consultations on the entry program and implement it as early as possible,” she added.

Phuc said in return that Vietnam is carrying out a domestic review to craft entry measures to allow businesspeople to enter the country under “more advantageous” conditions.

The two sides also discussed joint efforts for more balanced trade relations and South Korean medical equipment manufacturers’ complaints of difficulties operating in Vietnam due to the country’s new bidding regulations.

Kang arrived in the Southeast Asian country earlier in the day. She is scheduled to meet her counterpart, Pham Binh Minh, on Friday for talks expected to focus on creating an expedited entry system for essential travelers from South Korea.

“There still remain a lot of parts that should be coordinated,” she told reporters ahead of her departure from Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, when asked about the prospect of a special entry system. “Agreement has not been reached yet about anti-virus measures we are thinking of and they believe are necessary.”

Kang also said that she will use the trip to work out ways to revitalize people-to-people exchanges with Hanoi, a key partner for Seoul’s New Southern Policy aimed at deepening economic and other ties with Southeast Asian countries.

The minister’s visit to Hanoi is her second trip abroad since the global spread of COVID-19 put a curb on diplomatic travels. She visited Germany early last month in the first such trip since the pandemic.

By Bureau