President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov welcomed South Korea’s Moon Jae-in to Ashgabat as Seoul seeks a greater role notably in the Turkmen energy sector (Igor SASIN)

Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in kicked off a trade and investment-focused tour of Central Asia on Wednesday with a visit to Turkmenistan, as he seeks to ease reliance on China and the US.

Moon met authoritarian Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the gas-rich nation’s capital Ashgabat, in the first stage of a trip that will also take in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Berdymukhamedov said following talks that his country considered South Korea “a reliable business partner”.

Turkmenistan is seeking to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons that account for over 90 percent of exports.

Moon expressed hope for “further participation of Korean companies in the development of the energy sector of Turkmenistan, as well as infrastructure projects,” in comments translated into Russian.

Moon’s office earlier confirmed that economic affairs would dominate talks during the eight-day regional tour.

Presidential economic adviser Joo Hyung-chul said Central Asian markets would grow “even more significant on a global scale” in coming years, in comments published on the presidential website Monday.

Moon is looking to ease the reliance of the world’s 11th-largest economy — stuttering on 2.7 percent annual growth — on traditional partners Beijing and Washington.

Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.