L'AQUILA, Italy, July 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sought to win Italy's support for an envisioned free trade deal between his country and the European Union in a summit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi here Friday.
The move is part of last-minute efforts by Seoul to conclude the free trade agreement (FTA) while three EU nations -- Italy, Poland and Hungary -- were believed to be holding back their full support for the accord.
Berlusconi agreed to work with the South Korean leader to help "upgrade the Korea-EU relationship to a strategic partnership by concluding the Korea-EU FTA at an early date as agreed in the Korea-EU summit held in Seoul on May 23," Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.
The agreement could mean the sides are now only a step away from signing the deal which, once signed, is expected to generate billions of dollars in increased trade for both sides.
Poland is said to have withdrawn its early opposition to the proposed deal, with President Lech Kaczynski saying in a joint press conference with Lee after their summit Wednesday that the FTA will help improve the relationship between his country and South Korea.
Lee and the Italian prime minister agreed to improve their countries' bilateral ties, noting their relationship has steadily expanded to economic, political and cultural areas since first established in 1884, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
"The two heads of state agreed to strengthen the cooperation between their countries in dealing with global issues, such as the worldwide financial crisis and climate change," it said in the press release.
They also agreed to work together for an early resumption of six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition, noting its possession of nuclear weapons will not be accepted.
Pyongyang declared it was abandoning the nuclear disarmament talks in protest over U.N. condemnation of its rocket launch in April. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.
it seems the North Koreans may have carried out an act of cyber-war against half a dozen US government agencies and the hallowed Washington Post. Our Asia correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is out there in cyberspace, chasing them down.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korean officials held talks on Thursday to salvage a joint factory park in the communist state that has become a key source of foreign cash for Pyongyang, hit by U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test.
The talks come as North Korea looks ready to launch medium or short range missiles from its east coast within days, a South Korean newspaper reported, which could further stoke tensions already high due to the North's May 25 nuclear test.
Washington said this week it has tightened its crackdown on firms linked to the North's lucrative proliferation of missiles, a major source of cash for the destitute state, and has sent the U.S. point man for sanctions to Asia for discussions.
The talks over the Kaesong industrial park, where about 100 South Korean companies pay $70 a month per person to employ about 40,000 North Koreans, have hit snags in previous rounds over the North's demands for sharp raises in wages and land lease fees.
Analysts said North Korea was trying to squeeze more money out of the South Korean companies in Kaesong as U.N. sanctions imposed for its missile and nuclear tests begin to grip the state that produces few goods other than arms it can export.
North Korea has ignored the South's demand for the release of a South Korean worker who has been held at the park located just inside North Korea for more than three months for supposedly insulting the North's political system.
The North said in May it was cancelling all wage, rent and tax agreements for the park, once hailed as a model of future economic cooperation between the rival states technically still at war who share one of the world most militarized borders.
The North was likely to fire medium or short range missiles from its east coast in early July that could include Scuds with a range of about 340 kilometers (210 miles) or Rodong missiles with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, the daily JoongAng Ilbo quoted an intelligence source as saying.
Japan's coast guard has said it had monitored no-sail warnings by the North for 10 nautical areas around the Korean peninsula for military firing exercises.
On Tuesday, the United States said it was cracking down on companies involved in North Korea's suspected missile proliferation and in the purchase of equipment that could be used in a nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. Treasury and State Departments moved to freeze the assets of an Iranian and a North Korean firm under an executive order and also barred U.S. firms from dealing with them.
Philip Goldberg, the U.S. envoy who coordinates sanctions against the North, went to China in a bid to get tough with North Korea. China is the North's biggest benefactor whose cooperation could determine the success of any sanctions regime, analysts said.
He will be in Malaysia on Sunday before heading back to Washington on Monday. It was not immediately clear why he was visiting Malaysia.
A North Korean ship being tracked by the U.S. Navy on suspicion of carrying a banned arms cargo has turned around and is headed in the direction of the North after it was seen sailing to Myanmar.
Officials said the North's military grandstanding is likely related to moves by its leadership to begin readying leader Kim Jong-il's youngest son as a future heir by consolidating the 67-year-old leader's power base.
Report from Associated Press (via Yahoo News) by HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:13 pm ET:
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea accused Washington of seeking to "provoke a second Korean War" as the regime prepared to hold maritime military exercises off the eastern coast. U.S. and regional authorities were watching closely for signs that North Korea might fire short- or mid-range missiles during the June 25 to July 10
timeframe cited in a no-sail ban for military drills sent to Japan's Coast Guard.
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