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Nov. S. Korea-ASEAN summit to focus on strengthening free trade, shared prosperity

Yonhap Korea Stories 17:09 August 18, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- The special summit between South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), slated to take place in the southern city of Busan later this year, will focus on promoting free trade and shared regional prosperity, a presidential aide said Sunday.

The remarks by Joo Hyung-chul, an economic aide to President Moon Jae-in, raise the possibility that the summit will be a venue for Seoul to step up diplomacy against Tokyo's recent export restrictions against it.

South Korea and the 10-member regional bloc plan to hold the summit on Nov. 25 and 26 to mark the 30th year since the establishment of their sectoral dialogue relations and further deepen their bilateral cooperation.

"At the special summit, South Korea and the ASEAN countries will solidify their will to open markets, expand trade, strengthen the free trade order and explore ways for shared prosperity through mutual cooperation against the backdrop of recent international situations where trade conflicts and protectionist trends are deepening," Joo told a press briefing.

Joo Hyung-chul, an economic aide to President Moon Jae-in, speaks during a press conference at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Aug. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

Asked about whether the summit will touch on Japan's export restrictions against South Korea, Joo said, "It is difficult to say how (the Seoul-Tokyo spat) will unfold 100 days later, but as it is important to maintain the open, free trade system, there will clearly be discussions on this."

Tensions between Seoul and Tokyo rose sharply after Japan imposed tighter restrictions last month on exports to South Korea of three industrial materials key to the production of semiconductors and displays, and decided this month to strip the country of its preferential trade status.

Seoul believes that Tokyo's export control measures are political retribution for last year's Supreme Court rulings here that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula.

South Korea has been calling on Japan to retract the measures, stressing that they run counter to the principles of free trade that Tokyo has long championed and benefited from.

"The government's position is that it is expecting a smooth resolution regarding the Abe government's trade retaliation through dialogue," the presidential aide said.

Seoul has been calling for a diplomatic resolution to the trade row. During his Liberation Day speech on Thursday, Moon said that he would "gladly join hands" with Tokyo should it choose the path of dialogue and cooperation.

In response to a question about whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be invited to the Busan summit, Joo said that the issue hinges on progress in relations between North Korea and the United States.

"Smooth dialogue between the North and the U.S. is the most important," he said.

Washington and Pyongyang have been exploring working-level nuclear talks. The talks are expected to resume after a combined military exercise between South Korea and the U.S. ends this week.


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