South Korea builds ties with Ethiopia in bid to deter North

South Korean President Park Geun-hye exchanges greetings with an unidentified foreign diplomat in Seoul, prior to embarking on a state visit to Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Photo Courtesy of Republic of Korea/Blue House

SEOUL, May 26 (UPI) — South Korea is launching a charm offensive in the Horn of Africa – and Seoul’s motives could be tied to containing North Korea’s influence in the region.

During her state visit to Ethiopia on Thursday, President Park Geun-hye pledged $1 million in aid to help the country recover from one of the worst droughts in its history, Yonhap news agency reported.

The South Korean leader met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the two signed a memorandum of understanding.

The two governments agreed to work toward full-scale defense cooperation, which could move toward cutting out North Korea from building its influence in the country, according to South Korea press.

Ahead of the summit, Seoul’s foreign affairs and security chief Kim Kyu-hyun had said the two leaders plan to exchange opinions on the North Korea issue.

“Ethiopia has clearly expressed its opposition to North Korea’s nuclear tests that are in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Kim told reporters.

“We expect the summits with African countries will secure their cooperation in implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270.”

Park is expected to continue to Uganda and Kenya after the Ethiopia visit.

North Korea has not abandoned its nuclear weapons program despite strong international pressure.

In preparation for increased provocations, South Korea’s navy and air force conducted a joint drill off the eastern coast of the peninsula on Thursday.

The exercise worked on the South’s capacity to strike North Korean warships with guided missiles, Yonhap reported.