Yoon arrives in Indonesia to attend ASEAN summits

September 5, 2023

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday to attend annual summits involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the first leg of a two-nation tour that will later take him to India for a summit with leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.

This will be the second consecutive year the president attends both gatherings, underscoring the importance his administration places on boosting cooperation with a region noted for its strategic position in the U.S.-China rivalry and its growing economic potential.

Yoon also said in an interview with the Associated Press published Monday that he will use the meetings to urge the international community to “resolutely respond to North Korea’s ever-escalating missile provocations and nuclear threats and to work closely together on its denuclearization.”

ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

On Wednesday, Yoon will attend a South Korea-ASEAN summit and check the current state of practical cooperation between the two sides while also discussing areas of future cooperation, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters last week.

The same day he will attend an ASEAN Plus Three summit involving the 10 member states, and South Korea, Japan and China to discuss ways to realize an “East Asian community,” before going to a gala dinner hosted by Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair.

On Thursday, the president will attend the East Asia Summit, a security forum bringing together leaders from the 10 ASEAN states and eight other countries, including South Korea, the U.S. and China. Kim said Yoon will present South Korea’s position on regional and international issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program, and explain how the country plans to defend and contribute to the rules-based international order.

“President Yoon plans to emphasize the importance we place on ASEAN by personally attending the ASEAN summits for the second consecutive year,” Kim said. “In particular, he will state our government’s plans to push the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI) in earnest by announcing plans to strengthen cooperation in the cyber and maritime security fields, and cooperation projects in the digital innovation field.”

KASI was unveiled by Yoon during last year’s ASEAN summits in Cambodia in November and centers on enhancing strategic communication and cooperation with the bloc’s 10 members for regional peace and stability. The initiative also forms a core part of South Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

Yoon’s trip to Jakarta will double as a bilateral visit marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Indonesia.

On Friday, he will hold a summit with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Jakarta and attend a cooperation agreement signing ceremony, as well as a joint press conference.

Later that day, he will travel to New Delhi, India, and attend two sessions of the G20 summit the following day, including one on climate change and the environment. Yoon will present detailed ways South Korea plans to contribute to overcoming climate change.

On Sunday, the last day of his tour, Yoon is scheduled to visit the Raj Ghat memorial dedicated to the Indian anti-colonial nationalist Mahatma Gandhi with other world leaders. He will then attend the third G20 session under the theme “One Future” to discuss ways South Korea will contribute to building a free, peaceful and prosperous future.

Yoon is set to hold at least 14 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN and G20 summits, including with the leaders of Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, India, Spain and Argentina.

A bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was raised as a possibility for the India trip, but a presidential official said it is not being planned, as Beijing has not revealed whether Xi will attend the G20 summit.

Yoon will return home Monday. He is accompanied on the trip by first lady Kim Keon Hee.