South Korea becomes 1st Asian nation to sign space pact with US
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Wednesday became the first Asian nation to sign a space-cooperation pact with the U.S., officials said.
The framework agreement paves the way for the allies to discuss working together on Earth science, possible use of the International Space Station and the future exploration of Mars, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
South Korea is also looking for help with a project to launch a moon lander, a key part of President Park Geun-hye’s pledge to revitalize her country’s aerospace industry and space program.
U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert said South Korea is the first Asian country to sign such a pact. Speaking at a signing ceremony with South Korea’s foreign minister, Lippert said the agreement would further “broaden, deepen and strengthen” the countries’ alliance.
South Korea, a relative latecomer to the space technology field, is struggling to catch up to its powerful neighbors China and Japan, which are decades ahead. It launched its first satellite in 2013 after two failed attempts and sent an astronaut to the ISS on board a Soyuz rocket in 2008.
Park and President Barack Obama agreed to expand space cooperation during their October summit.
The agreement comes against the backdrop of rising tensions with North Korea, which has launched a series of missile tests and threats since staging its fourth nuclear test in early January.
Both sides stressed the framework signed Wednesday was for “civil and peaceful purposes.”
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said the pact is aimed at jointly addressing challenges facing the international community and improving quality of life.
He said North Korea “unfortunately” seeks to develop delivery vehicles for its nuclear and other weapons under the name of “space development.”