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Yoon seeks firmer international alliance at summits

Ahead of 7-day tour, Yoon says NK provocation poses existential threat to ASEAN community

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Sept. 5, 2023 - 15:34

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President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee, who will visit Indonesia and India to attend the ASEAN summit and the G-20 summit, depart from Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee, who will visit Indonesia and India to attend the ASEAN summit and the G-20 summit, depart from Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol embarked on a journey to the ASEAN and G-20 summits on Tuesday, eyeing a fortified international stance against North Korea's nuclear advancements, and fostering deeper economic and security cooperation with ASEAN member states.

On Wednesday, Yoon will commence his official engagements at the Korea-ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, where leaders are set to evaluate the partnership between the two regions and delineate plans for future collaborations. Following this, he will join the ASEAN+3 summit, emphasizing fortifying alliances among the 10-member bloc, South Korea, Japan and China.

On Thursday, Yoon is slated to attend the East Asia Summit, a strategic gathering featuring leaders from 18 nations. Yoon aims to foster international unity on the North Korean nuclear issue and underscore the imperative of upholding an international order grounded on global standards.

In a written interview with the Indonesian national newspaper Kompas published hours before his departure, Yoon said, “North Korea’s ever-increasing missile provocations and nuclear threats pose a direct and existential threat to ASEAN member states as well.”

“In times like these, the Republic of Korea and ASEAN must join forces to respond decisively and cooperate closely on North Korea’s denuclearization,” he said.

“ASEAN-ROK solidarity and cooperation must be enhanced further, so the rules-based international order will be able to take firm root in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Though a bilateral summit with China or a trilateral summit involving Japan and China seems improbable during his visit, Yoon underscored that cooperation among the three nations was vital.

He called the three-way ties “an overriding prerequisite” in order for ASEAN+3 to continue expanding the scope and depth of its cooperation and to realize the vision of an East Asia community in the long term.

“To create synergy between the separate summits that the Republic of Korea, Japan and China are having with ASEAN, trilateral cooperation must be revitalized,” he said.

China's Premier Li Qiang will attend one of the ASEAN summits in Jakarta, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday. Chinese President Xi Jinping seems unlikely to participate in both the ASEAN and G-20 summits. Yoon and Xi had their initial meeting during the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November, but have not had any formal contact since.

Highlighting the trilateral summit held at Camp David last month involving Korea, the US and Japan, Yoon said that the cooperation among these nations "does not intend to exclude" any specific country or respond to a particular power.

During his seven-day diplomatic trip, Yoon is slated to engage 14 multilateral and bilateral summits, including meetings with leaders from the host nations.

"Indonesia and India serve as critical foundations for broadening our pragmatic network and business avenues," a senior official from the presidential office told reporters on Monday.

"In the post-China era, India is poised to emerge as a massive global market, and Indonesia retains its status as the nation with the largest population and domestic market within the ASEAN bloc," he said.

While there is no official economic delegation for this trip, a business roundtable will take place in Indonesia. Business leaders set to attend include Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Chung Euisun, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and LS Chairman Koo Ja-eun.

Yoon will head to New Delhi, India, on Friday for the G-20 summit and returns to Korea on Monday.