Yoon unveils S. Korea’s strategy for free, peaceful, prosperous Indo-Pacific

November 11, 2022

President Yoon Suk-yeol unveiled South Korea’s new Indo-Pacific strategy on Friday, with a focus on promoting freedom, peace and prosperity in a region that has gained increasing strategic importance amid the U.S.-China rivalry.

Yoon announced the strategy shortly after arriving in Cambodia to attend a series of summits involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the first leg of a two-nation tour that will later take him to Bali, Indonesia for a Group of 20 summit.

“Peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region is directly connected to our survival and prosperity,” he said during a South Korea-ASEAN summit, describing the Indo-Pacific as a region where 65 percent of the world’s population lives, accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and through which half of the world’s cargo travels. “I plan to create a free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region through solidarity and cooperation with ASEAN and other major nations.”

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a South Korea-ASEAN summit at Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh on Nov. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a South Korea-ASEAN summit at Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh on Nov. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)

Yoon outlined key elements of the strategy, starting with a strengthening of the rules-based international order built on universal values.

“We will promote a harmonious regional order upon which countries in the region respect each other’s rights and interests, and seek common benefits,” he said, promising to work to prevent conflict and armed clashes through rules and to uphold the principle of peaceful resolution through dialogue.

“A unilateral change of the status quo by force should never be tolerated,” he said.

Yoon also vowed to strengthen cooperation with countries in the region in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation; anti-terrorism; and maritime, cyber and health security.

“Also, I will build a prosperous Indo-Pacific region through an open and fair economic order,” he said, adding that he plans to strengthen economic security by increasing supply chain resilience and achieve joint prosperity by creating a cooperative and inclusive economic and technological ecosystem.

“South Korea will carry out active contribution diplomacy in areas such as climate change, the digital gap and health,” Yoon continued.

“Based on the three key visions of freedom, peace and prosperity, and under the three key cooperation principles of inclusivity, trust and reciprocity, we will implement the Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said.

The presidential office said it was the first time South Korea has presented a diplomatic strategy specific to the Indo-Pacific.

Yoon also presented an ASEAN-specific plan, called the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI), which will form a core component of the Indo-Pacific strategy.

He proposed that as part of the initiative the two sides hold more active strategic dialogue between their diplomatic channels and regular defense ministerial meetings.

He especially pointed to the “direct and serious threat” North Korea’s nuclear and missile program poses to the international community and asked that ASEAN work together to get North Korea to choose a path of peace and coexistence, not confrontation and conflict.

On economic cooperation, Yoon called for upgrading the South Korea-ASEAN free trade agreement to include digital trade and vowed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of electric vehicles, batteries and digital technologies, all of which are in high demand among ASEAN states.

Moreover, he promised to support various projects and partnerships designed to address climate change and environmental issues, including the establishment of a South Korea-ASEAN center on carbon neutrality and green transformation set to begin in 2024.

Yoon also formally proposed that the two sides upgrade their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP) on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of establishing a dialogue partnership in 2024.

The ASEAN leaders welcomed the proposal and called for closely communicating at the leader level to make the CSP a reality, according to the presidential office.