Mekong nations, S. Korea keen to boost cooperation
The Republic of Korea is committed to providing more financial support for the Mekong-Korea Cooperation Fund which will be used to carry out their action plan until 2020.
Currently the ROK provides US$1 million to the fund annually and since 2014 more than US$3.3 million has been given to the fund by South Korea.
At a Mekong-ROK Senior Officials' Meeting held in Pakxe, Champassak province, on Friday, the two sides reviewed their past cooperation (2014-2016) and discussed new plans of action for 2017-2020.
An official in charge from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ROK was committed to increasing assistance to the fund, but the amount had yet to be confirmed.
The Mekong countries (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar) and the ROK currently cooperate in six priority sectors, namely infrastructure, information communication technology, green growth, water resources development, agriculture and rural development, and human resource development.
At Friday's meeting which was opened by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Thongphane Savanphet, the Lao side proposed that tourism be included in the priority sectors while Thailand suggested small and medium enterprises as a new field for future cooperation.
The outcome of this meeting will be submitted for further debate at the Mekong-ROK Foreign Ministers' meetings to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea in September.
Everything will be clearly agreed upon at the ministerial-level meeting including whether the Lao proposal will be accepted and how much exactly Korea will assist the Mekong sub-region from 2017-20.
The Mekong countries and the ROK seek to make important improvements in local hard and soft infrastructure in order to enhance connectivity in the Mekong region and beyond, and contribute to the implementation of the Asean Master Plan of Connectivity.
Under the Mekong-ROK Plan of Action (2014-2017), Korea intends to make the Mekong countries priority partners in official development assistance (ODA), and plans to increase its ODA to the Mekong region.
The Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund is expected to increase overall balanced growth in the Mekong region. Besides the Mekong-ROK Plan of Action, the Mekong countries and Korea will identify and implement medium and long-term cooperation projects.
The Mekong countries welcome Korea as a development and investment partner and encourage the country to further enhance its role within sub-regional cooperation frameworks.
The implementation of the Mekong-ROK Plan of Action will be reviewed regularly at the Mekong-ROK Senior Officials' and Foreign Ministers' meetings.
The Plan of Action will be updated, when necessary, to timely address the changing environment of the development cooperation in the Mekong region and the needs of the Mekong countries on a regular basis.
By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update March 25, 2017)