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Yoon puts focus on economic, security ties at ASEAN summit

President meets with Japanese, Chinese leaders on sidelines to discuss NK issues

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during the ASEAN+3 summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday morning. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during the ASEAN+3 summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday morning. (Yonhap)

During his trip to the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, President Yoon Suk-yeol presented the nation’s new regional strategies to strengthen economic and security ties with the nations and met with US, Japanese and Chinese leaders on the sidelines to stress solidarity in countering North Korean threats.

President Yoon landed in Cambodia on Friday and attended the Korea-ASEAN summit the same day. At the meeting he unveiled the nation’s Indo-Pacific strategy to strengthen economic security and achieve joint prosperity with countries in the region by enhancing supply chain resilience.

Yoon stressed the importance of the area in opening remarks at the summit, saying, "Peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region are directly related to our survival and prosperity."

“Any unilateral change in the status quo by force should never be tolerated," he added. "We will make active efforts to prevent conflict and armed conflict based on rules and to uphold the principle of peaceful resolution through dialogue."

The remarks seem to have taken into account threats from North Korea, China and Russia. The nation’s Indo-Pacific strategy is seen as similar to a diplomatic and security strategy that the US has put forward to keep China in check.

The next day, Yoon met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well as ASEAN bloc leaders at the ASEAN+3 summit being held for the first time in three years due to the pandemic. He urged cooperation and solidarity against North Korean threats.

Yoon said the international community is facing many challenges now and the importance of cooperation among ASEAN nations, Korea, China and Japan is greater than ever.

He said war and human rights abuses have “not stopped” in many parts of the world, and the crisis in food and energy security caused by climate change is “exacerbated” by the prolonged war.

President Yoon pointed out that North Korea's provocations and attempts to boost its nuclear missile capabilities are “direct and serious threats” to the international community. He also stressed that if North Korea conducts its seventh nuclear test, the international community should respond firmly.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Kishida also expressed concern about North Korea launching a ballistic missile and appealed for cooperation from the leaders of the participating countries. He called for cooperation from the international community to realize the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile issues, Kyodo News reported.

Li expressed his intention for China to play a constructive role in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, according to the Korean presidential office.

On Sunday, his last day in Cambodia, Yoon attended the East Asia Summit and stressed that North Korea’s denuclearization is a prerequisite for a peaceful Indo-Pacific region. He urged the international community to “respond sternly” if North Korea launches an intercontinental ballistic missile again or conducts a nuclear test despite the repeated warnings from the international community. He also promised full support if the North starts denuclearization.

Yoon additionally defined Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international law, adding, "Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence must be respected."

The EAS is a strategic forum for discussing key security issues in the East Asian region. Its members are the 10 members of the ASEAN bloc and 18 others, including South Korea, the US, Japan, China, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Later Sunday, President Yoon held separate bilateral summits with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden. The Korea-Japan summit was up in the air before the trip and was finally confirmed just a day earlier.

The three nations' leaders also held a multilateral summit, the first in about four months since the Korea-US-Japan summit in Madrid on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the end of June. During the three summits, they focused on discussions on strengthening the alliance and cooperation to counter North Korean threats.

On Monday, President Yoon travels to Bali, Indonesia. He will attend a meeting with businesspersons in Indonesia, a B-20 summit involving economic organizations and corporate representatives from G-20 member countries and a Korea-Indonesia business roundtable co-hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.

Yoon will attend the G-20 summit on Tuesday and speak at sessions involving food and energy security as well as health. He wraps up his six-day trip and returns home the same night.



By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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