Saturday 14 July 2018

South Korea, Singapore to boost economic cooperation; President Moon Jae-in State Visit, 11 to 13 July 2018

South Korea, Singapore exchange MOUs, vow to keep regional peace
Six agreements exchanged; both to review implementation of FTA, look at further liberalising tariffs
By Charissa Yong, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Jul 2018

Singapore and South Korea yesterday vowed to step up economic cooperation and work together for peace and stability in the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in witnessed the exchange of six agreements on trade, investment, industry, energy, environmental cooperation, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

Both countries will launch a review of the implementation of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement within six months and look to further liberalise tariffs for certain products, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

Singapore and South Korea also reaffirmed their commitment towards the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an ASEAN-led trade pact which also involves six of the grouping's trading partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

PM Lee said at a joint press conference: "We look forward to substantially concluding the negotiations by the end of this year."

PM Lee and Mr Moon, who is on a three-day state visit, met for more than an hour and discussed specific ways that South Korea could work more closely with Singapore, which is ASEAN chairman this year, and the other ASEAN nations.

Under Mr Moon's New Southern Policy, South Korea is seeking to expand ties with South Asia and South-east Asia.

Mr Moon said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilateral trade significantly and to finalise swiftly negotiations to amend their double tax avoidance agreement.

Trade between Singapore and South Korea was $45.4 billion last year, making South Korea Singapore's ninth largest trading partner. Singapore is South Korea's 10th largest trading partner.

PM Lee noted that Singapore companies are showing growing interest in Korean sectors such as real estate, manufacturing, electronics, precision engineering, transport, food, and information and communications technology.

The leaders also discussed strengthening air connectivity. PM Lee hoped both sides could expand their air services agreement and increase flight routes to cover other South Korean cities such as Busan.

Referring to the six agreements, PM Lee said both sides are exploring new areas of cooperation where they complement each other.

For instance, they will work together on technologies such as medical technology, artificial intelligence and the industrial Internet of Things.

PM Lee said: "The Republic of Korea is strong in technology and innovation, while Singapore is well-connected to the region."

The two countries also agreed to joint ventures in smart-city projects overseas.

Mr Moon said: "Singaporean companies are strong in smart-city development and management software, while Korean businesses excel in hardware such as information technology. "

Working together would help both take the lead in the smart-city industry in Asia and beyond, the South Korean leader added.

Another area of cooperation is in energy security and smart grids, which are electrical grids that use technology to detect energy usage remotely.

The leaders also discussed ways to grow relations between ASEAN and South Korea, such as upgrading the ASEAN-South Korea free trade area or having an ASEAN-Korea air services agreement, said PM Lee.

Mr Moon said: "I would like to see Korea-ASEAN cooperation expand in dimensions completely different from the past."

Mr Moon, whose visit ends today, also discussed regional issues with PM Lee. They agreed to work closely towards peace and stability in the region, including in cyber security and maritime security.

Mr Moon said Singapore contributed immensely towards ushering in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula by hosting the historic summit between the United States and North Korea last month.

"On behalf of all Korean people, I would like to once again express my profound gratitude to the people of Singapore," he said.

PM Lee said Singapore believes constructive dialogue is necessary to peace in the region, and is happy to have hosted the summit.

"It is a long road ahead, with many more challenges to overcome. I hope the Singapore meeting has set things moving in the right direction."

He also said he was happy to accept an invitation from Mr Moon to visit South Korea.

Strength of both Singapore and Korea is in their people, says Moon
By Charissa Yong, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Jul 2018

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is a symbol of the strong friendship between Singapore and South Korea, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday, noting that Singapore took part in its first Winter Games with some help from South Korea.

Speed skater Cheyenne Goh, 19, who competed in the Games in February, was coached by South Korea's four-time Olympic gold medallist Chun Lee-kyung, Singapore's national coach. "It was a testament to the strong people-to-people ties that Singapore's first Winter Olympian is coached by a Korean," Madam Halimah said in a speech at a state banquet for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"I should also mention that K-pop and Korean dramas are very popular in Singapore, across all ages and races… Many Singaporeans even learn the Korean language so that they can watch Korean dramas," Madam Halimah added, to laughter.

Ms Goh and Ms Chun were both present at the banquet at the Istana, which featured Singaporean fare such as beef rendang and rojak, and a live band playing a medley of tunes including the well-known Doraji Taryeong Korean folk song.

The dinner capped a busy day for Mr Moon, who received an official welcome at the Istana and called on Madam Halimah in the morning.

Mr Moon was hosted to lunch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Botanic Gardens, where he had an orchid named after him and his wife, Madam Kim Jung-sook.

At the banquet, where a specimen of the purple flower was on display, Mr Moon said: "The strength of both Singapore and Korea is in their people. We were never complacent.

"We were not hindered by the geopolitical circumstance of being surrounded by big powers, or the lack of natural resources. We achieved a miracle that no one could dream of by empowering the people and endlessly trying something new."

He also thanked Singapore for hosting the United States-North Korea summit in June, saying: "Singapore has long made great efforts towards peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."

After dessert, both presidents met Singaporean cook Paul Simon, 26, who works at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa and helped to prepare dishes for the banquet.

Mr Simon who has a mild intellectual disability, first met Madam Halimah in January when he got to prepare a three-course lunch for her. He had been featured in an article saying his dream was to cook for the President. Last night, he told reporters: "I want to welcome Mr Moon to Singapore and let him try some new food. I want to show him this is how we cook."

42nd Singapore Lecture: ASEAN can play role in Korea peace efforts, says South Korean President Moon Jae-in
Once Pyongyang takes steps to denuclearise, grouping can boost ties with North, he says
By Charissa Yong, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2018

ASEAN can continue to play a constructive role in helping to usher in peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday.

"It is necessary to create opportunities for North Korea to fulfil its role as a responsible member of the international community," he said in a lecture on the final day of a state visit to Singapore.

"In the event North Korea carries out measures for denuclearisation with sincerity, I hope that the North will be invited to the various consultative bodies run by ASEAN, and that bilateral exchanges and cooperation between ASEAN and the North will be strengthened."

Mr Moon outlined how the grouping could help resolve the nuclear issue and bring about a deeply rooted peace on the Korean peninsula in his lecture titled "Republic of Korea and ASEAN: Partners for achieving peace and co-prosperity in East Asia".

Held at the Orchard Hotel, it was part of the Singapore Lecture series hosted by the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, in which world leaders speak on global and regional affairs.

Mr Moon cited several ASEAN efforts which have kept North Korea in the fold of the international community. Since 2000, for instance, ASEAN has supplied a platform - the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) - for dialogue between Pyongyang and the international community. The ARF is the only multilateral forum which includes North Korea, and it has been a vital channel for communication, he said.

ASEAN has also consistently encouraged the North to give up its nuclear missile development programme and choose the path towards peace and prosperity, he added.

Mr Moon said ASEAN and North Korea also had a mutually beneficial economic relationship before tougher international sanctions were imposed on North Korea in response to its nuclear programme.

The regional grouping also supported economic cooperation between the two Koreas by letting goods produced in their jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex fall under the same tariffs as South Korean goods under the Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, he added.

"When international sanctions against the North are lifted, once North Korea carries out complete denuclearisation, the once-vibrant economic cooperation between North Korea and ASEAN will be revived again," he said.

Building on complete denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula, South Korea will draw up a new economic map and both Koreas will press on towards an economic community, he said.

He stressed that if the Korean peninsula achieved peace, Asia - including Singapore and ASEAN - would prosper greatly.

In his speech, Mr Moon laid out his vision of a road map to peace involving the United States, Japan, China and Russia, but acknowledged it would not be easy to achieve.

He said: "But if the agreements at the summit are implemented with sincerity, the goal can be achieved.

"If North Korea gives more substance to the implementation of denuclearisation, and if South Korea and the US quickly take comprehensive corresponding measures, the whole process will accelerate."

Later, during the question-and answer session, Mr Moon agreed that working-level talks between North Korea and the US would not all be smooth sailing.

He described the agreement reached between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their meeting in Singapore last month as a direct swop of North Korea's complete denuclearisation for US security guarantees to the Pyongyang regime and the ending of their hostile relationship.

"There will be some difficulties at the working level to achieve the swop, especially the question of what comes first. I am aware it is a difficult process," said Mr Moon.

But he made the case for the US-North Korea summit being different from other attempts at peace in the past, saying: "The two leaders met directly and made a promise to the international community.

"Even if there are some bumps and bruises at the working-level negotiations, these agreements will be adhered to in the end. If they do not keep the agreements, there will be repercussions from the international community," Mr Moon added.

Singapore can continue to help in bid to denuclearise Korea: Moon
He expresses heartfelt appreciation for support and looks forward to Singapore's constructive role
By Chang May Choon, South Korea Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2018

Singapore can continue to play a constructive role after hosting the historic United States-North Korea summit, and has strengths that "will be of great help in materialising" the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this week.

In a written interview with The Straits Times as he began his first state visit to Singapore, Mr Moon stressed the importance of building trust on all sides, and sought close cooperation with Singapore and other countries in the global community to maintain the dialogue momentum and implement the agreements made among the leaders.

He also expressed his heartfelt appreciation on behalf of Koreans to Singapore's Government and its people for their excellent support for the success of the June 12 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He said of Singapore: "I was deeply impressed by the devotion and the sense of responsibility they showed in the process."

He said the US and North Korea settled on the summit venue "because they had trust in Singapore".

Noting that Singapore has also been constantly communicating with both Koreas and the US, and is ASEAN chair this year, he said: "Such strengths of Singapore will be of great help in materialising the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace. I am looking forward to Singapore's constructive role going forward."

His visit comes as the US and North Korea struggle to iron out details of the broad agreement inked by their leaders in Singapore to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement after a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week expressing regret and blasting the US for its "unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearisation... which runs counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit".

Mr Pompeo dismissed the accusations and insisted the talks were productive. He was backed by Mr Trump, who tweeted he had "confidence that Kim Jong Un will honour the contract we signed and, even more importantly, our handshake".

Mr Moon, in his interview with ST, stressed that the tensions between the US and North Korea have persisted for nearly 70 years, since the 1950-53 Korean War, and "cannot be resolved in just one stroke".

He said the Korean peninsula is now "witnessing a great historic transition", adding: "The course of history has now turned away from war and towards peace." But while both Koreas and the US have taken a joint first step, what matters most, he added, is devising concrete plans to put into practice the agreements made among the leaders.

"The North needs to flesh out its implementation plans for denuclearisation, while South Korea and the United States have to swiftly carry out corresponding comprehensive measures. To this end, trust is of paramount importance."

Mr Moon acknowledged that the controversial decision to suspend joint military drills between South Korea and the US was a move to build trust and keep the dialogue going.

But he gave the assurance that the US forces stationed in the South are "an entirely different issue" and "not a subject for discussion" in negotiations for denuclearisation. "Both South Korea and the United States have a firm stance on the role and importance of US forces in South Korea in regard to peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula and in North-east Asia."

Mr Moon said talks are under way to discuss the timing and format of a declaration to end the Korean War this year. "I believe that if the two Koreas can restore a sense of community among the Korean people while coexisting and mutually prospering on a peaceful peninsula, the door to unification will open naturally."

South Korean President here on three-day state visit
By Chang May Choon, South Korea Correspondent and Charissa Yong, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Singapore is "an important partner" whose cooperation is necessary for implementing one of his government's top priorities - deepening ties with South-east Asian countries.

In a written interview with The Straits Times ahead of his three-day visit, Mr Moon also expressed hopes to build a strong friendship with President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, both of whom he will meet today.

Mr Moon, accompanied by First Lady Kim Jung-sook, arrived in Singapore yesterday evening. He will get an official welcome at the Istana today, and Madam Halimah will host a state banquet, while PM Lee will host him to lunch.

"Solid trust between the leaders of our two countries should provide impetus for further promoting forward-looking bilateral cooperation," said Mr Moon, who is the first Korean leader in 15 years to make a state visit to Singapore.

Mr Moon, 65, first unveiled the New Southern Policy in Indonesia last November, aiming to achieve a more "balanced diplomacy" by elevating its engagement with ASEAN to the level of major powers such as the United States and China.

The policy also applies to India, Mr Moon's first stop on his overseas trip this week where he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In his interview with ST, Mr Moon said South Korea and ASEAN are "optimal partners" on the path towards a future of peace and prosperity, noting that South Korea has actively supported the regional grouping's efforts to create an ASEAN community. "It is also firmly committed to elevating ties with ASEAN to the level of those with the four major powers whose interests converge on the Korean peninsula," he added, referring to the US, China, Russia and Japan.

Mr Moon cited three ways to boost ASEAN-Korea ties: Enhance people-to-people exchanges, identify and implement more joint projects for their people to prosper together and make joint contributions to global peace beyond the Korean peninsula and ASEAN.

He also said there is more that Singapore and South Korea can do together, although the two countries are rivals in many areas.

He cited how Korean companies have been involved in building major Singapore landmarks, including Marina Bay Sands, and said joint research and sharing of experience in areas such as artificial intelligence, fintech and biomedical services will "allow our two countries to take the lead in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution".

Today, he and PM Lee will witness the exchange of several agreements to boost cooperation in trade, environment, small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups. Tomorrow, he will deliver the Singapore Lecture titled "Republic of Korea and ASEAN: Partners for achieving peace and co-prosperity in East Asia".

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