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Park holds summit with New Zealand PM ahead of armistice anniversary

2013/07/26 16:16

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea President Park Geun-hye held a summit with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Friday as the leader of a former wartime ally visited Seoul to attend the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

New Zealand is one of the 21 countries that helped South Korea repel invading troops from the communist North. About 6,000 New Zealand troops were dispatched to fight alongside the South as part of the U.S.-led Allied Forces, and about 40 of them were killed.

Key arrived Thursday for a five-day visit that includes attendance in a ceremony set for Saturday to commemorate the armistice anniversary. South Korea invited all 21 countries to the event, and Key is the only leader-level official among foreign participants.

"South Korea was able to safeguard liberal democracy and become what it is today thanks to the sublime sacrifices of New Zealand troops," Park said at the start of the summit. "The people of South Korea will never forget the sacrifices and love of New Zealand veterans."

   Park said that New Zealand dispatched 6,000 troops when the country's total number of troops was fewer than 10,000. She also noted that New Zealand veterans are still sending scholarships to South Korean students in one of the hardest-fought regions during the war.

Other topics expected to be on the table included the nuclear standoff and other issues related to North Korea as well as bilateral matters, such as negotiations to forge a free trade agreement. The two countries have been in free trade talks since 2009.

South Korea and New Zealand established diplomatic relations in 1962. Their bilateral trade volume amounted to US$75.5 billion last year.