Moon to spur Indo-Pacific Strategy with Asean

27-Nov-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 8:11 AM Print This Post

Leaders adopt joint statement on final day of summit

President Moon Jae-in expressed his appreciation for Asean member nations’ support for the Washington-initiated Indo-Pacific Strategy and stressed Seoul will cooperate closely with Asean partners to bolster regional stability by developing an Asean-centered Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“South Korea welcomes the June announcement of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. South Korea will cooperate with Asean member nations on regional stability by embracing such Asean-centric initiatives,” the President said in a joint press conference announcing a declaration between South Korea and leaders of Asean member nations, Tuesday.

In particular, the South Korean leader said the country will further promote his administration’s signature New Southern Policy with Asean members for a “peaceful East Asian community” and utilise various Asean mechanisms ― Asean Plus Three (APT), the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) ― to sharpen his inter-Korean peace drive.

“I’ve discussed with Asean leaders on how to explore the best possible ways of transforming the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas into a peace zone in a genuine sense. Details were touched upon such as the establishment of joint liaison offices (between Seoul and Pyongyang),” the President said.

The June announcement driven by Indonesian President Joko Widodo highlights Asean’s “comprehensive security” approach with a greater emphasis on “implementing and exploring other Asean priority areas of cooperation, including maritime cooperation and connectivity.” It somewhat contradicts Washington’s idea of a “free” Indo-Pacific Strategy which identifies domestic political openness and good governance as key points putting it at odds with China.

With the agreement as one of the core points, President Moon and Asean leaders adopted the resolution, Tuesday, at the Korea-Asean Commemorative Summit to reaffirm their commitment for strengthening cooperation for multiple common challenges in economic, socio-cultural, regional and security areas.

President Moon, however, didn’t specify how Seoul will demonstrate the gap between Washington’s version of Indo-Pacific Strategy and those of Asean. The South Korean leader only reiterated that South Korea and Asean will benefit from being “connected” through close cooperation in addressing issues of mutual interest.

The statement comes as South Korea is facing grave security challenges amid escalating tension with Japan and the US Although South Korea has decided to conditionally renew the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), it still has not been enough to fundamentally cool bilateral tension.

Seoul-Washington security cooperation has also shown some rifts due to their differences over GSOMIA, which the US has continued to support as a key symbol of trilateral security cooperation, and the rocky South Korea-US Special Measures Agreement (SMA) negotiations to decide Seoul’s share of costs for maintaining the US troops stationed in Korea.

The President is also facing tough challenges with inter-Korean relations. Cheong Wa Dae regretted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s “polite decision” not to attend the Asean summit. Denuclearisation dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang has been deadlocked with no visible signs of progress.

Given these circumstances, Moon and the Asean leaders attended a working lunch after the morning sessions where the focus was on the situation on the peninsula.

“For the first time, a separate session was organised at the Asean summit to focus solely on the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the presidential office said in a statement. “Asean is a region that has close ties not only with us but also with both North Korea and the US All 10 Asean countries have diplomatic relations with the Koreas and the US Also, two US-North Korea summits were held in Asean countries last year and this year, and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) is the only regional multilateral security consultative body which includes the North.”

The joint statement also included a stronger South Korea-Asean commitment for responding to growing protectionism as well as expediting trade and people-to-people exchanges. South Korea emerged in 2018 as Asean’s fifth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest source of foreign direct investment. The two-way inbound and outbound trade volume between Asean and Korea increased by 4.4 percent amounting to $160.5 billion in 2018.

Plus, South Korea also showed firm support for development in Asean by announcing plans to double official development assistance (ODA) by 2022 under Korea’s New Southern ODA Strategy.

Moon wrapped up the final day of the event by holding bilateral meetings with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Laos prime minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

He also hosted a welcome dinner for the participants of the inaugural Korea-Mekong summit to be held today.


Category: Korea

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