SINGAPORE: Singapore believes that “constructive dialogue” is necessary in order to achieve peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Jul 12), on the sidelines of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Singapore.
Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference, Mr Lee said that Singapore is happy to have hosted the recent summit between North Korea and the United States, and wished South Korea and all other parties involved success.
“It is a long road ahead, with many more challenges to overcome,” he said. “But I hope the Singapore meeting has set things moving in the right direction.”
Mr Lee noted that he appreciates the South Korean government’s initiatives, including Mr Moon’s personal efforts in encouraging dialogue with the North.
He added that Singapore will continue to work with South Korea and the international community to achieve lasting peace and stability and the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Speaking through a translator, Mr Moon noted that through hosting the historic North Korea-US Summit, Mr Lee and the people of Singapore have “contributed immensely” towards fostering a new era of peace in the Korean Peninsula.
“On behalf of all Korean people, I would like to once again express my profound gratitude to Singapore,” he said.
SPECIFIC WAYS TO UPGRADE BILATERAL RELATIONS
During the press conference, Mr Moon outlined specific ways in which Singapore and South Korea can upgrade its bilateral relations to a higher level. These, he said, were discussed and agreed upon during his meeting with Mr Lee.
For example, Singapore and South Korea have agreed to strengthen its collaboration for peace and stability in the region. “The scope of our cooperation will be expanded to cover non-traditional security fields including maritime security, cyber-security and the environment,” he said.
People-to-people exchanges between both governments will also be expanded, he added. This will be done by increasing high-level exchanges, including at the leaders’ level.
Both countries will also expand exchanges with the objective of nurturing talent and people. “In this context, we will expand exchanges between the young people of our two countries who will be the future leaders as well as the rising stars in the field of cutting edge science and technology,” he said.
“I hope that the agreements reached in today’s meeting will be swiftly implemented through follow-up consultations,” he said.
SINGAPORE HAS STRONG, EXPANDING ECONOMIC TIES WITH SOUTH KOREA: PM LEE
Both countries also agreed to further strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, with Mr Lee describing Singapore’s economic ties with South Korea as “strong and expanding”, with overall trade reaching S$45 billion in 2017.
He expressed the hope that progress could be made on existing areas of cooperation like trade. For example, he hoped that the next implementation review of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA) can be held soon.
“It will show the international community that our countries are committed to free and open trade,” he said.
During the visit, Mr Lee and Mr Moon also witnessed the signing of six Memoranda of Understanding covering the environment, free trade, smart grids, the fourth industrial revolution, small and medium enterprises, and investments.
“These agreements build upon our existing cooperation and trade mechanisms, but also our complementary strengths,” he said.
“We also welcome Korean companies to take advantage of Singapore to expand into the ASEAN region.”
Mr Moon described Singapore as the second largest trade partner and the biggest investment partner of Korea, among ASEAN countries, adding that both countries have agreed to “invigorate mutual investment” by significantly increasing bilateral trade volume, and by swiftly concluding the revision of the double tax avoidance agreement.
He added that Korean companies have been participating in “landmark construction projects in Singapore”.
“I look forward to seeing Korean companies further contribute to the construction projects in transportation and infrastructure that the Singapore government is pursuing,” he said.
SOUTH KOREA ALSO INCREASING ENGAGEMENT WITH ASEAN REGION
Both leaders also discussed South Korea’s relations with regional bloc ASEAN.
Mr Moon commended Singapore, as ASEAN chair, for putting “a lot of effort” into establishing a “more dynamic ASEAN community” under the theme of innovation and resilience.
Mr Lee added that both leaders discussed South Korea’s relations with ASEAN, and said he was glad that South Korea is increasing its engagement with the region.
Possibilities for growing relations between ASEAN and South Korea could include upgrading the ASEAN-ROK (Republic of Korea) Free Trade Area and concluding an ASEAN-Korea Air Services agreement, he said.
Mr Moon’s visit to Singapore is his first as president, and the first state visit by a South Korean president to Singapore in 15 years.
He was given an official welcome by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on Thursday morning and will be attending a state banquet in his honour.