Foreign ministry seeks to install council in charge of New Southern Policy

SEOUL, The foreign ministry seeks to install a council dedicated to strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries and India, an advance legislation notice for the plan showed Sunday.

Unveiled through the notice dated Feb. 14, the move is in line with the Moon Jae-in government's push to expand and diversify the country's diplomacy that has so far focused largely on major powers, such as the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

The government has been pushing for the New Southern Policy, an initiative to deepen political, economic, social and cultural relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other countries.

The new council, if established, will be in charge of crafting basic policy directions and mid- and long-term plans for cooperation with the partner countries, creating the institutional framework for the New Southern Policy and pushing for related projects.

The council, which is to be chaired by the foreign ministry, will consist of some 30 members, including those from outside the ministry.

"It will play a role as a pan-government control tower that will determine key policy directions for the New Southern Policy," a government official said, declining to be named. "We expect it to be launched as early as March."

ASEAN has been emerging as a crucial partner for South Korea due to its geopolitical value, growth potential and rich resources.

Moon has said that he will firm up the bilateral relationship with ASEAN "to the level of the four major powers."

The ASEAN Community now has around 630 million people -- the world's third-greatest population after China and India -- with its gross domestic product reaching around US$2.6 trillion.

It also boasts strategic locations linking the Indo-Pacific region that hosts the world's most crucial trading and energy supply routes -- a reason why the U.S., China and other major countries have been vying for influence over ASEAN.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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