SINGAPORE - South Korea's New Southern Policy marks its "strong commitment" to prosper together with Asean, said President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday (Nov 14), as he invited leaders of South-east Asian nations to special summits that his country plans to host next year.
This is because 2019 marks 30 years of dialogue relations between Asean and South Korea, he noted in his opening remarks at the Asean-Republic of Korea Summit in Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The New Southern Policy, which President Moon referred to, was unveiled last year and aims at reducing South Korea's reliance on the United States, China, Japan and Russia by expanding ties with South-east Asian nations and India.
Next year, South Korea is expected to host a Korea-Asean summit, as well as the first Korea-Mekong summit - a meeting of leaders of South Korea and the Mekong River countries of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
On Wednesday, the South Korean President added that he has met several Asean leaders in person over the past year and hopes to meet all by next year, in order to build deeper trust. He said he has also set up a presidential committee to realise the country's vision, creating a "comprehensive blueprint" underlying its strategies.
Recent efforts have seen some results, he noted, with its bilateral trade volume with Asean rising 6 per cent to US$120 billion in the first nine months of the year compared to same period last year.
In his opening remarks to President Moon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also highlighted the importance of upgrading the Asean-Republic of Korea Free Trade Area, establishing an Asean-Korea Air Services Agreement, and cooperating through the Asean Smart Cities Network.
"The Republic of Korea has... been a strong supporter of Asean-led mechanisms as well as Asean's community building efforts. There is much more we should do," he said.
Noting that Asean and South Korea have robust economic ties, Mr Lee added that South Korea is the region's fifth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest source of foreign direct investment.
Both sides are aiming to reach a trade volume of US$200 billion by 2020, Mr Lee added.
At the summit, Mr Lee added that the commemorative summit with South Korea would be a timely opportunity "to strengthen collaboration in mutually beneficial areas of interest" such as trade and economic links, connectivity and smart cities.
Mr Lee also spoke on regional security, saying that the maintenance of peace and security is critical to the region's prosperity.
"Singapore welcomes the positive developments brought about in the inter-Korean Summits and the US-DPRK Summit this year," he said, referring to South Korea's meetings with North Korea. "We urge all parties concerned to continue working towards the realisation of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula."
Adding that there is still a "long road ahead", he said Singapore will continue doing its part and fully implement its obligations under the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.