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Moon dials up diplomatic push for Southeast Asia

Unveils ‘New Southern Policy Plus’ at Korea-ASEAN Summit, envisions deeper cooperation with Southeast Asia, other nations

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in on Thursday announced the “New Southern Policy Plus” initiative to enhance the country’s regional diplomacy at the Korea-ASEAN Summit, held via satellite link.

Moon stressed the need for international cooperation in face of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the newly unveiled strategy reflects the changing needs of Korea and the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, in light of the virus crisis.

“I think that it is very fortunate that the Korea-ASEAN Summit is held at a time when closer solidarity and cooperation is needed,” Moon said.

Saying that Korea and the ASEAN nations had worked together and that his New Southern Policy had achieved significant results, Moon introduced the new edition of the policy.

The New Southern Policy Plus is a continuation and upgrade of the New Southern Policy, one of Moon’s core foreign policy initiatives, which seeks to strengthen ties with countries to the south and southwest of Korea.

“New Southern Policy Plus contains new possibilities in seven core areas, such as comprehensive public health cooperation. It will allow the creation of ‘people centric community of peace and prosperity faster, while leading the way into the post-COVID era,” the leader said.

According to Moon’s senior economic aide Park Bok-yeong, the New Southern Policy Plus builds on the New Southern Policy while maintaining its core principles.

“New Southern Policy Plus will maintain the 3P -- people, prosperity, peace -- as core axis, and propose seven main strategic directions,” he said.

These are public health cooperation; sharing Korea’s education model and providing aid in human resources development; increasing cultural exchange; establishing a reciprocal and sustainable basis for trade and investment; cooperation in developing urban and rural infrastructure; cooperation in future industries; and cooperation on nontraditional security issues.

Cheong Wa Dae also hopes the Korea-ASEAN summit will serve as an opportunity to show Seoul’s continued commitment to the Korean Peninsula peace process, and to garner the international community’s support.

“In addition, President Moon will participate in the discussions on other regional security issues to express Korea’s stance and emphasize the importance of seeking peaceful resolutions,” Park explained at a briefing.

“The government will continue to improve on the strengthened cooperation with ASEAN, and strengthen strategic cooperation with New Southern countries through New Southern Policy Plus,” Park said, referring to the nations involved as the “New Southern countries.”

Moon is set to continue summit diplomacy with the ASEAN nations until Sunday.

On Friday, Moon will participate in the second Korea-Mekong Summit, where ways to improve cooperation among the participating countries will be discussed. The Korea-Mekong Summit was established at Moon’s suggestion in 2018 to strengthen Korea’s relations with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The inaugural Korea-Mekong Summit was held in Busan last year.

On Saturday, the ASEAN Plus 3 summit -- involving the 10 ASEAN members plus Korea, China and Japan -- is scheduled to be held, followed by the East Asia Summit later in the day. The East Asia Summit includes the ASEAN states, Korea, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the US.

The series of multilateral summits will wrap up with a summit of countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership -- the ASEAN states, Korea, Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, the participating countries will sign the final RCEP agreement, completing eight years of negotiations. The text of the agreement was agreed to last year, without the participating countries finalizing details of how their markets will be opened to each other.

Cheong Wa Dae said the signing of the RCEP agreement is a major milestone for the Moon Jae-in administration’s New Southern Policy, bringing Korea into the world’s largest free trade agreement and the policy’s goals closer, as well as aiding local firms to expand into new markets.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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