South Korea President Moon Jae In kicks off maiden South-east Asia tour in Indonesia

South Korean President Moon Jae In (centre-left), his wife Kim Jung Sook (left), Indonesian President Joko Widodo (centre-right) and first lady Iriana (right) wave to the media from the balcony of the Presidential Palace in Bogor, Indonesia, 9 Novemb
South Korean President Moon Jae In (centre-left), his wife Kim Jung Sook (left), Indonesian President Joko Widodo (centre-right) and first lady Iriana (right) wave to the media from the balcony of the Presidential Palace in Bogor, Indonesia, 9 November 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - South Korean President Moon Jae In took his first steps in building stronger trade ties with Indonesia on Thursday (Nov 9) when overseeing the signing of US$1.9 billion (S$2.58 billion) worth in agreements.

The deals 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 capital to towns in West Java province.

The bumper agreements came at 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 go beyond new horizons and Indonesia has good prospects,” said Mr Moon after the signing of the agreements at a business forum in Jakarta on Thursday.

South Korea’s investment in Indonesia reached about US$10 billion from 1980 to 2016, primarily centred 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 on Thursday.

Mr Joko said he welcomed South Korea’s investment in Indonesia, which has almost doubled in first half of 2017, while trade increased by 19.3 per cent in the same period.

Mr Moon also thanked Mr Joko for his support for a peaceful resolution of the tensions in the Korean peninsular, with the Indonesian leader calling on the North 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.

Before they held talks, Mr Joko brought Mr Moon on a blusukan, his trademark community visit, to the Bogor Trade Mall, where they bought matching batik shirts.

Mr Moon leaves Jakarta for Danang, Vietnam, on Friday (Nov 10) 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 with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.