President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday stressed the importance of strengthening ties with ASEAN member states, saying the region is key to his administration’s foreign policy.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting in Busan ahead of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the Mekong-Korea Summit scheduled to be held in the southern port city Nov. 25-27, Moon highlighted the importance of the region and developments in Korea-ASEAN relations and said his foreign policy differs from that of past administrations in two ways.
“One is seeking resolution to Korean Peninsula issues through dialogue and diplomacy, and the other is (achieving) a significant leap in diplomatic and trade relations with the ASEAN region to go beyond diplomacy focused on the four major countries,” Moon said, referring to China, Japan, Russia and the US.
Moon went on to describe his efforts to improve Korea-ASEAN ties, such as sending a special envoy to the ASEAN region after his inauguration and making visits to all 10 ASEAN member countries.
Saying that Korea-ASEAN cooperation in all areas, including diplomacy and economy, was improving rapidly, Moon added that a solid foundation had been laid for cooperation for peace and shared prosperity.
Moon cited the adoption of the draft of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP agreement at the ASEAN summit in Thailand earlier this month as an important milestone for the administration’s New Southern Policy, and for free trade.
The New Southern Policy, central to Moon’s foreign policy direction, aims to increase Seoul’s economic and political cooperation with the ASEAN region as well as with other countries to the south and southwest of Korea, including India.
The RCEP would span the ASEAN region as well as Korea, Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand. The countries that agreed to the draft account for about a third of world trade.
“Promoting free trade is essential to expanding our economy and for shared prosperity of Korea and the ASEAN. In this regard, RCEP is an opportunity to improve trade conditions between Korea and the ASEAN and to spur on the New Southern Policy,” Moon said.
“The ASEAN-Korea and Mekong-Korea summit conferences are an interim assessment of the New Southern Policy that the administration has worked on for the past 2 1/2 years,” Moon said, adding that the policy is central to Korea’s growth drive.
Saying the New Southern Policy would be made complete through cooperation with the ASEAN nations, Moon went on to urge officials at the Cabinet meeting to lay the foundation for reciprocal and sustainable cooperation with ASEAN states.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com