Moon to announce pivot to Southeast Asia

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Moon to announce pivot to Southeast Asia

President Moon Jae-in will announce the “New Southern Policy,” aimed at expanding and bolstering Korea’s economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, during his upcoming visit to the region later this month, the Blue House said Thursday.

Moon will leave Korea on Wednesday to visit Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines for a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings with regional leaders. The trip will take place shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Korea on Tuesday and Wednesday.

During his visit to Indonesia from Wednesday to Nov. 10, Moon will have a bilateral summit with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and attend a Korea-Indonesia business roundtable.

Moon will visit Vietnam on Nov. 10 and 11 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. A bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping will take place on the sidelines of the conference, as Seoul and Beijing recently agreed to mend the relations, ruptured by Korea’s decision to host a U.S. antimissile system. During his participation in the APEC summit, Moon will also promote his government’s economic policy.

On Nov. 13 and 14, Moon will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Plus Three (Korea, China and Japan) summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

“Our expectation for the president’s upcoming travel is high because it will continue the momentum to bolster relations with the Asean, created in May by sending a special envoy to the region,” said Nam Gwan-pyo, second deputy director of the National Security Office of the Blue House. “Moon will present Korea’s New Southern Policy to complete his vision for prosperity following the New Northern Policy he presented in September at the Eastern Economic Forum [in Russia].”

According to Presidential Economic Advisor Kim Hyun-chul, Moon will announce the New Southern Policy on Nov. 9 at a forum with businessmen from Korea and Indonesia. Moon will deliver a speech themed on his New Southern Policy and Korea-Indonesia economic cooperation before 300 officials and businessmen from the two countries. “This will be a very important speech,” Kim said.

During his September visit to Russia, Moon announced the “New Northern Policy” to present Korea’s plan to bolster energy and logistics cooperation with China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia. His “New Southern Policy” will focus on Korea’s efforts to explore new markets in Southeast Asia.

The Moon administration has been seeking ways to diversify Korea’s trade, while reducing its heavy dependence on China. The efforts gained momentum after China carried out significant economic retaliations for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) deployment. The New Northern Policy and the New Southern Policy were a pair of plans to expand Korea’s economic cooperation partners.

Kim also said the trip will have other important economic agendas. Moon will attend the Asean Business and Investment Summit on Nov. 13, participated by 500 businessmen, dignitaries and scholars, and give a speech to announce his vision to establish a Korea-Asean community for the future, he said.

“Throughout his presidential campaign, Moon stressed the importance of bolstering ties with the Asean,” Kim said. “Asean is our second-largest trade and investment partner, and Korea is Asean’s fifth-largest trade partner. He has repeatedly stressed that he wants to upgrade Korea’s diplomacy with Asean to match the relations with four superpowers [China, Japan, Russia and the United States].”

Moon will also attend the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit on Nov. 14, Kim said, a proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six countries that already have a free trade deal with Asean - Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

“This is a mega FTA in the Asia-Pacific region,” Kim said. “The summit will confirm responses to trade protectionism and stress the importance of RCEP to integrate regional economy.”

On the sidelines of the Asean meetings, Moon will also have a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

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