SEOUL • French President Francois Hollande visited South Korea yesterday, looking to bring Seoul fully on board as a "very useful" ally in securing a global climate change deal in Paris next month.
It was the first visit by a French head of state to Asia's fourth-largest economy for 15 years and coincided with the 130th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Mr Hollande, who flew into Seoul after a visit to China, is travelling with a delegation of corporate heads and a clutch of senior ministers.
In Beijing, China and France reached what Mr Hollande described as a "historic" agreement that the international deal on tackling climate change to be negotiated in Paris should include checks on compliance.
The Nov 30-Dec 11 conference, to be attended by at least 80 world leaders, seeks a single global agreement with the goal of capping warming at 2 deg C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
In Seoul, Mr Hollande was looking to ensure that South Korea was ready to play the role of facilitator in getting the agreement signed.
South Korea hosts the Green Climate Fund - the global fund created to spearhead climate change financing - and is seen as a key go-between in negotiations on whether developed or developing countries should bear more of the burden for reducing emissions.
Mr Hollande said the negotiations would begin before the Paris conference, with leaders of the G-20 grouping of leading industrialised and emerging economies due to meet next week at a summit in Turkey.
"Success in Paris needs to be secured before Paris, and that's why I thought it was necessary to stop over in Seoul," Mr Hollande said at a roundtable on climate change and green growth in Seoul.
"South Korea is heavily involved in preparations for the Paris meeting and will have a very useful role to play in the whole process."
South Korea has made significant efforts to boost its green credentials in recent years, and in January became the first Asian country to set up a carbon emissions trading exchange.