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Korea, U.S. sign space cooperation agreement

South Korea and the United States on Wednesday signed an agreement on space cooperation, paving the way for the allies' enhanced collaboration in the exploration of outer space.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert signed the "Framework Agreement for Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Civil and Peaceful Purposes."

With the signing, South Korea became the first Asian country to ink a pact on space cooperation with the U.S., Seoul officials explained. The signing ceremony took place during the second South Korea-U.S. Civil Space Dialogue in Seoul.

The bilateral efforts to establish a legal framework for space cooperation began in 2010. The endeavors got a boost when Presidents Park Geun-hye and Barack Obama agreed to expand space cooperation during their summit in October.

The agreement sets forth the terms and conditions for potential bilateral cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in areas of common interest and "on the basis of equality and mutual benefit," a joint press statement read.

"The ROK and the United States recognize the importance of civil space cooperation as a tool to make the world safer and more prosperous," the statement said.

"The agreement builds on the firm ROK-U.S. alliance, the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and across the Asia-Pacific region, and exemplifies the evolution of the ROK-U.S. global partnership into increasingly strategic and important new frontiers of cooperation."

The agreement covers potential cooperation on various space-related topics, such as cutting edge planetary exploration, Earth observation and improved understanding of heliophysics by exchanges of scientific data, as well as scientists, engineers and other experts, officials said. 

During Wednesday's space cooperation talks, the two sides are set to discuss cooperation on future exploration activities, including Korea's lunar exploration project and the exploration of Mars, the officials said. (Yonhap)

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