Credit rating agency Fitch has raised Korea's credit outlook from "A+ stable" to "A+ positive" on Monday. Although Fitch did not raise the countrys credit rating itself, the outlook signals the potential of Korea being upgraded to "AA-" or even the double-A level in the next six months to a year. The last time Fitch upgraded Korea's credit rating outlook was in August 2009. Korea received an "AA-" credit rating back in 1996 but was downgraded during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and has not been able to claw back. Currently China, Italy, Korea and Taiwan are rated "A+." Saudi Arabia and Spain are rated "AA-," and Japan "AA." Fitch in a press release said it raised the outlook because rising foreign reserves and decreasing reliance on short-term external debt are strengthening Koreas external liquidity." It added currency swap agreements with Japan and China have quelled concerns over foreign currency liquidity. Fitch, however, predicted that Korea's external maturities which "will pick up strongly in 2012 to about US$66 billion, against an average of $22 billion annually over 2007-2011." "Refinancing these maturities without putting pressure on the external finances and foreign reserves would strengthen the case for an upgrade," it pointed out. Deputy Finance Minister Choi Jong-ku said, "We are optimistic about a credit rating upgrade, since we are able to weather such situations."