President to accelerate New Southern Policy
President Moon will be devoting this week to economic diplomacy at multilateral occasions involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
The President will travel to Singapore on Tuesday to participate in the Korea-ASEAN summit. In Singapore, he will also attend regional trade talks ― the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves ASEAN member nations as well as Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. After staying in Singapore until Nov. 16, the President will travel to Papua New Guinea for the APEC summit, which will be held with theme "Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future."
The visits coincide with the first-year anniversary of President Moon's New Southern Policy, which aims to expedite economic and cultural ties with ASEAN countries and India to diversify Korea's trade and diplomacy beyond its relations with traditional powers. Ultimately, the President wants to reduce economic dependence on the U.S. and China while cultivating economic ties with emerging economies in Southeast Asia, such as India. The President has shown a deep interest in India and recently sent first lady Kim Jung-sook on a solo tour of the country, which is very rare in Korean diplomacy.
Forging stronger economic ties with Southeast Asia is all the more important with the complex external factors impacting the Korean economy, particularly the U.S-China trade conflict and the rise of U.S. protectionism. Therefore, the President has wisely placed huge importance on ASEAN since the beginning of his presidency, saying he will visit all ASEAN members. He has already visited Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In July, he visited Singapore shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met in the country for a historic summit.
His upcoming visit to Singapore coincides with the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and ASEAN. Moon is expected to propose various measures to accelerate his New Southern Policy, such as hosting a special Korea-ASEAN summit in 2019 and the establishment of the Korea-Mekong summit involving Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
A special committee on the New Southern Policy said last week it will spend 15 billion won ($13.3 million) to support Korean companies to do business in the region. "The New Southern Policy, along with the New Northern Policy, is the backbone of peace and prosperity that forms Korea's new economic map we are pursuing,"said Kim Hyun-chul, leader of the committee. The committee said it will push for presidential visits to ASEAN countries that Moon has not visited yet, such as Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Visits to these countries should be at the forefront of his diplomatic agenda next year.
It should also be noted that Moon will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit. We hope it will be an occasion to expedite the New Northern Policy, which aims for more economic cooperation with Eurasian countries.
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