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President Lee seeks consolidated ties with ASEAN nations

President Lee Myung-bak arrived in Seoul on November 22, after taking part in a series of regional meetings in Indonesia, the current host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), followed by a three-day state visit to the Philippines.

President Lee holds a relay of summits with leaders of Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines on the occasion of state visits to Indonesia and Philippines (Photos courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

During his stay in Bali, President Lee strived to substantially enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation within the context of the regional milieu, attending the three major forums ASEAN-ROK, ASEAN Plus Three, and the East Asia Summits. Since his November 17 arrival at the Indonesian resort city, the Korean president held a relay of one-on-one summit talks with the leaders of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia alongside a Trilateral Summit Meeting to discuss taking steps forward in partnership with each nation.

ASEAN has emerged as the second largest partner to Korea, after China in terms of trade, and after the European Union in volume of investment. At the ASEAN-ROK summit on November 18, President Lee announced a plan to forge enhanced links with ASEAN through establishment of a new diplomatic delegation body of the Republic of Korea in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2012.

As the talks revolved around the issues of trade, President Lee and his ASEAN counterparts positively assessed the outcome of the Korea-ASEAN free trade agreement. Coming into effect in 2007, the Korea-ASEAN FTA is contributing to two-way commerce, anticipated to shatter records this year.

The heads of states agreed to further deepen cooperation on follow-up measures for effective implementation of the FTA, and welcomed signing of the amended protocols for the Korea-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement.

(left) President Lee poses with with ten ASEAN leaders at the 14th ASEAN-ROK Summit on November 18; (right) President Lee attends the ASEAN-ROK Summit (Photos courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Thailand and several other ASEAN nations allegedly showed interest in Korea sharing its development experience and called for the active participation of Korean corporations in infrastructure construction projects.

While offering words of consolation to recent flood victims in nations of the region, including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, President Lee volunteered to share the know-how of Korea’s Four Rivers Restoration Project, which has resulted in lowering damage caused by natural disasters.

During the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, President Lee placed a special focus on the framework of Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) playing a key role in dealing with regional liquidity issues against the high vulnerability of the region. The issue of financial cooperation was one of the main topics of the East Asia Summit held the following day on November 19, as well. In this regard, the Korean leader stressed the need for further elevating cooperative measures to cope with the current and prepare for future global financial crises.

President Lee attends the East Asia Summit held in Bali on November 19 (Photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

At the Trilateral Summit Meeting held ahead of the East Asia Summit, President Lee and his counterparts Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao discussed Korean Peninsula affairs and how to maintain regional peace, including a resolution on the North Korean nuclear issue.

After wrapping up a crowded schedule in Bali, President Lee then flew to Manila for a state visit, on the invitation of President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines.

During the bilateral summit conducted on November 21, President Lee and his Philippine counterpart agreed to reinforce bilateral cooperative measures in the economic, agriculture, and energy sectors.

President Lee pledged the unstinted support of the Korean government as to grant concessional and non-concessional aid for development initiatives in line with the Philippines Development Plan 2011-2016. On the sidelines of the presidential visit, the two parties sealed accords on the construction of Jalaur River Multipurpose Dam in Iloilo and a coal-fueled power plant in the Subic Bay Economic Zone.

President Lee (left) makes an address at the Korea-Philippines Business Forum on November 21 (Photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

The Korean president also attended the Korea-Philippines CEO Roundtable and Business Forum on November 21, where he called for expanded corporate investment and civic exchanges and encouraged the building of new models of bilateral cooperation in a wide range of business sectors.

The forum was followed by a state banquet hosted by the Philippine president. “Korea and the Philippines have formed a solid alliance over the past six decades of diplomatic relations,” said President Lee as he proposed a toast. He also mentioned the reaffirmed commitment of the two sides to further nurture a more focused and dynamic partnership as strong allies bound by a friendship dating back to 1950s, recalling the participation of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces in the Korean War.

(left) President Lee shakes hands with Korean war veteran and former Philippine President Ramos during a visit to the Korean War Memorial on November 20; (right) President Lee lays a wreath for the Korean war veterans (Photos courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Earlier on November 20, President Lee paid a visit to the Korean War Memorial in the Philippine capital for a wreath-laying ceremony. He met with Philippine war veterans and paid his respects to their participation to the Korean War. Among the war veterans present that day was the former President of the Philippines Fidel Ramos, who served in the Korean War and has contributed to strengthening the bilateral friendship.

President Lee meets with Philippine students at the Ateneo de Manila University (Photos courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

The presidential itinerary also included a visit to the Ateneo de Manila University -- the alma mater of alumni including the current president of Philippines Benigno Aquino as well as national hero José Rizal. At the Town Hall meeting on November 21, President Lee held an intimate dialogue with Philippine students and faculty.

By Hwang Dana Staff Writer

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