efe-epaSeoul

The leaders of South Korea and Israel on Monday agreed to accelerate negotiations to reach a free trade agreement.

The decision was announced following a meeting in Seoul between Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who has been on an official visit since Sunday, and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in.

Moon and Rivlin were in favor of striking a trade deal, negotiations of which began in May 2015, as early as possible as the two sides think an agreement will lead to optimal cooperation, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the South Korean presidential office.

Trade between the two countries totaled to about $2.7 billion last year.

South Korea sells vehicles and communications equipment to Israel and in turn imports components for microchips and electronics, among other goods.

The two leaders also decided to strengthen cooperation in sectors such as hydrogen economy, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and 5G networks.

Yonhap also reported that the inter-Korean diplomacy process formed part of the Rivlin-Moon talks and the Israeli president reaffirmed his country's support in the efforts.

Rivlin is the first Israeli president to visit South Korea in nine years. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1962.

South Korea ranks 11th in the top destinations for Israeli exports.

Rivlin's official visit to South Korea includes business and academic meetings, as well as a tour of the facilities of Hyundai Motor, the country's leading vehicle manufacturer.

co-ag/sp/tw