South Korean leader kicks off S-E Asia tour in Indonesia

South Korea's President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and First Lady Iriana Widodo on the veranda of the Bogor palace yesterday.
South Korea's President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and First Lady Iriana Widodo on the veranda of the Bogor palace yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Inking of $2.6b in deals part of Seoul's plan to boost trade ties with Asean

South Korean President Moon Jae In took his first steps towards building stronger trade ties with Indonesia yesterday in overseeing the signing of US$1.9 billion (S$2.6 billion) worth of deals.

The pacts cover projects in energy, infrastructure and other developmental initiatives, including a US$500 million commitment to help Jakarta fund part of an ongoing Light Rail Transit project to connect the Indonesian capital to towns in West Java province.

The bumper agreements came on the first stop of Mr Moon's maiden South-east Asian tour, which has been pitched as South Korea's pivot to Asean after a fallout with China a year ago.

The move is part of the President's "New Southern Policy" that aims to expand the economic influence of his country in the region and diversify its trade links beyond traditional partners.

"Korean diplomacy in Asia has been more towards Japan, China and Russia, but I see that it must expand to new horizons, and Indonesia has good prospects," said Mr Moon after the signing of the agreements at a business forum.

South Korea's investment in Indonesia, reaching about US$10 billion from 1980 to last year, primarily centres on manufacturing, mining, finance and insurance.

But Indonesia has also emerged as a market for Korean-made defence equipment, with the two countries cooperating on the KF-X joint-fighter programme.

"Our meeting today would build on our mutual trust, which lays a strong foundation for our bilateral relations going forward," said Mr Moon after bilateral talks with President Joko Widodo at the Istana in Bogor yesterday.

Mr Joko said he welcomed South Korea's investment in Indonesia, which has almost doubled in the first half of this year, while trade increased by 19.3 per cent in the same period.

Mr Moon also thanked Mr Joko for supporting a peaceful resolution of the tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the Indonesian leader calling on North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions on de-nuclearisation.

"We urge North Korea to stop its ballistic missile tests and we appreciate President Moon's stance that he is open to resolving this through dialogue," he added.

Mr Joko also took Mr Moon on a blusukan, a community visit, to the Bogor Trade Mall, where they bought matching batik shirts.

Mr Moon leaves Jakarta today for Danang, Vietnam, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines for talks. His final stop will be the Philippines, where he will attend Asean meetings and meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'South Korean leader kicks off S-E Asia tour in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe