ASEAN to Urge NK to Return to Dialogue
By Na Jeong-ju
SEOGWIPO, Jeju Island ― South Korea and ASEAN are expected to issue a media statement today to denounce the North Korean nuclear test and call on the Stalinist regime to return to the six-party denuclearization talks.
``The two sides will likely adopt a statement on North Korea at the end of the Korea-ASEAN Commemorative Summit,'' presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said.
``The statement may call for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and criticize the North for its second nuclear test and brinkmanship. The leaders may call the North's nuclear program a serous threat to regional and world peace.''
ASEAN leaders will also urge Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks, which it quit last month following the United Nations' condemnation of its launch of a long-range rocket on April 5, the spokesman said.
North Korea's provocative actions are a major topic at the summit, which opened here Monday amid tight security. At the first session, the two sides discussed three main issues ― cultural and civilian exchanges, cooperation for ASEAN economic development, and global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and build a greener planet.
The leaders will hold additional discussions today on ways to strengthen regional financial cooperation and climate change and issue a joint statement at the end of their summit, Cheong Wa Dae said.
In a keynote speech, President Lee Myung-bak pledged to increase South Korean loans for ASEAN member states to help accelerate their economic development and enhance infrastructure.
He proposed joint projects to expand cultural and civic exchanges and cooperation on ``green growth'' between South Korea and ASEAN, an economic bloc of 10 Southeast Asian nations that has become the country's third largest trade partner.
Lee also stressed the role of Asia in achieving sustainable growth in the global economy and called for support for his new diplomatic doctrine, the ``New Asia Initiative.''
Under the proposal, announced in March during his visit to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, Korea aims to play a leading role in promoting Asia's common interests on the global stage and seek free trade agreements with all Asian countries.
President Lee said the administration would double Official Development Assistance (ODA) for underdeveloped ASEAN member countries to $400 million by 2015 to consolidate economic ties.
South Korea plans to increase its ODA to underdeveloped countries to 0.25 percent of gross national income by 2015 from the current 0.07 percent, and actively participate in economic development programs.
Seoul's ODA rose 48 percent in 2007 to $672 million, but the amount is still much lower than the average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members.
``The government's efforts to become an active ODA donor will help raise Korea's international status commensurate with its economic power,'' said spokesman Lee.
President Lee also introduced to ASEAN leaders Korea's plan to increase the number of volunteers for goodwill activities in less-privileged countries around the world.
The volunteer group ``World Friends Korea'' is the country's version of the Peace Corps in the United States.
The organization will work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations and businessmen in various areas, including education, the environment, agriculture and information technology. They will also play an important role in promoting Korea's culture and food around the world, officials said.
``Such programs reflect our efforts to become a more responsible and respected member of the international community,'' President Lee said.
Lee also pledged to make efforts to increase cultural exchanges through the ASEAN-Korea Center in Seoul, established in March based on an agreement during the ASEAN-Korea summit in Singapore in November 2007.