BANGKOK -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in flew into Thailand on Sunday for back-to-back annual regional summits driven by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as he is preparing to greet the leaders of the ASEAN member states in Busan late this month.
Soon after arrival, he attended a "gala dinner" hosted by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Moon is scheduled to join the ASEAN Plus Three summit and the East Asian Summit session in Bangkok, both slated for Monday.
The events set the stage for Moon to gather with his counterparts of the 10 ASEAN member states, three weeks ahead of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the inaugural Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit to be held in Busan from Nov. 25-27. The Republic of Korea is South Korea's official name.
South Korea's plan to play host to the Busan summits is in line with the New Southern Policy of the Moon administration. Two years earlier, Moon declared the initiative designed to upgrade Seoul's strategic partnerships with ASEAN in a bid to broaden and diversify its diplomatic channels.
For South Korea, this week's ASEAN-related sessions are a sort of "prologue" to the Busan summits, according to Joo Hyung-chul, a Cheong Wa Dae adviser for economic affairs.
"November is effectively a 'Month of ASEAN-South Korea (relations),'" he said at a press briefing here.
In Bangkok, he added, Moon plans to request continued support for the success of the Busan summits and an advance in the Korea peace process.
On Monday morning, Moon is scheduled to sit down with the leaders of the ASEAN nations as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in the 22nd APT summit.
Moon plans to present a vision for closer regional cooperation in efforts to create a "sustainable community" and to express Seoul's commitment to related contributions.
He will then be present at a "special lunch on sustainable development" along with the leaders of the other participating nations, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Moon will demonstrate Seoul's determination, as a responsible middle-power nation, to continue backing the global campaign to achieve the sustainable development goals.
In the afternoon, the EAS will take place with the participation of all the ASEAN members, South Korea, Japan, China, the United States, Russia, Australia, India, New Zealand. President Donald Trump is not attending it, as he's instead sending National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Moon is expected to encounter Abe during the meetings. But chances are slim that they will have formal one-on-one talks, Moon's aides said, amid a drawn-out standoff between the neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, the 16 nations involved in negotiations on the envisioned Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership plan to have a separate summit shortly after the APT and EAS sessions.
The US and Russia are not participating in the talks.
According to a local news report, hopes for a final deal to be reached within this year are fading as negotiators still haggle over details.
The Cheong Wa Dae official, however, did not rule out the possibility of a dramatic accord in Monday's RCEP summit.
If an agreement is reached, it will serve as an important opportunity to spread the value of free trade in the world economy, Joo said. It is also expected to help further accelerate the New Southern Policy of South Korea by enabling it to secure the foundation for more stable trade and investment with the ASEAN bloc and promoting other exchanges, he added. Moon is scheduled to return to Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)