Moon starts trip to Laos, Thailand and Myanmar

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Moon starts trip to Laos, Thailand and Myanmar


President Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook wave to well-wishers as they depart from Seoul Air Base, south of Seoul, on a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia on Sunday. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in started a tour of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos on Sunday, as part of his campaign to broaden and deepen Seoul’s partnerships with the Southeast Asian bloc.

The trip will make him the first Korean leader to visit Thailand and Myanmar in seven years and the first-ever Korean leader to visit Laos.

With the six-day journey, Moon will fulfill his promise to visit all the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) during his presidency under his administration’s New Southern Policy drive.

In Bangkok, his first destination, Moon is scheduled to hold summit talks with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday.

Traditionally, the two nations have maintained close cooperation on economy, society, culture, national defense and arms development.

Seoul is now seeking to expand bilateral ties to science and technology, as Thailand has the second-biggest economy in the region after Indonesia.

The Thai government is pushing a Thailand 4.0 project aimed at accelerating the growth of innovative, high-tech industries at home. It has been working hard to draw massive global investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a three-province advanced development zone near the capital.

Thailand holds this year’s rotating presidency of Asean.

“With the two-way trade volume with our country totaling around $14 billion, [the two sides] have great potential for the expansion of economic cooperation going forward,” Joo Hyung-chul, a Blue House adviser for economic affairs, told reporters.

Moon plans to participate in a Bangkok event Monday, called the Fourth Industrial Revolution Showcase, and present a vision for bilateral partnerships on digital life, bio health, smart factories and future vehicles, Joo added. The president will deliver a keynote speech at a related business forum.

On Wednesday, he will head to Myanmar for meetings with its state councilor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

Myanmar, rich in natural resources and geographically important, is a latecomer country in terms of market opening, which means a lot of opportunities for Korean companies. More than 200 Korean firms are doing businesses there.

During Moon’s state visit to the nation, the Myanmar government is expected to launch a Korea Desk to help Korean businesses resolve administrative difficulties.

Moon will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Korea-Myanmar Economic Cooperation Industrial Complex situated north of Yangon, Myanmar.

On Thursday, the president will make a state visit to Laos, where he will meet with President Bounnhang Vorachith and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

Among the main issues to be discussed are partnerships on hydroelectric power, ICT and farm villages. Laos is nicknamed the “battery of Southeast Asia” for abundant water resources from the Mekong River.

Moon’s trips to the three key partners for the New Southern Policy, which are expected to “serve as a chance to solidify the base to cooperate for the success of the Korea-Asean special summit and the first Korea-Mekong summit to take place in Busan in November,” Park Chul-min, presidential secretary for foreign policy, said.

The special summit will be held from Nov. 25 to Nov. 26 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Korea and Asean establishing their formal dialogue.

The following day, Moon will host a separate summit there with his counterparts from five Asean countries located around the Mekong River: Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

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