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In Singapore, Moon talks opportunities with Lee

July 13,2018
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Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, right, walk together to the National Arboretum on Thursday. [YONHAP]
Korean President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore agreed to upgrade bilateral economic cooperation to a higher level and exchanged six memoranda of understanding related to business and industry ties between the two nations at a summit in the island nation Thursday.

Moon, who is on a three-day state visit to the nation of 5.6 million, met with Prime Minister Lee at the presidential office of Istana Thursday morning for the summit. Moon’s meeting with Lee came exactly a month after Singapore played host to the historic North Korea-U.S. summit during which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

“We agreed to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation so that practical benefits from it could be distributed to the peoples of the two countries,” said Moon at a joint press conference following his meeting with Lee, adding that the two would “increase the trade volume that currently hovers around $20 billion in a dramatic manner” and “facilitate investments by passing a treaty aimed at preventing double taxation.”

Moon and Lee agreed to expand the scope of business participation by Korean companies in transportation, energy and infrastructure projects in the Southeast Asian nation.

To that end, the two leaders exchanged six MOUs pertinent to joint developments on environmental management and technologies of the fourth industrial revolution spanning from artificial intelligence to the internet of things.

“We especially agreed to prepare for an era of the fourth industrial revolution together,” noted the president, predicting that the two Asian nations would see a “remarkable achievement” if they combined high technology skills and capital that each has to develop cutting-edge industries in such areas such as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, big data and biomedical.

The two nations also agreed to widen personnel exchange by opening exchange training programs for government employees.

Singapore is a lucrative construction market for South Korean companies, second only to the Middle East. Korean companies have won construction bids worth $39.2 billion as of last year, according to the Blue House.

Singapore also ranks second among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as a trading partner with Korea, right after Vietnam.

In 2017, Korea’s trade with Singapore totaled $20.5 billion with a surplus of $2.7 billion.

On the denuclearization process and North Korea’s latest harsh remarks about the United States - that the latter was making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands for the North’s denuclearization - Moon said at the summit he considered such rhetoric an acceptable “strategy” in the course of a negotiation, according to Blue House Spokesman Yoon Young-chan.

“While the North criticized the U.S. through a statement issued by the foreign affairs ministry, it was intended to express its complaint that the U.S. was not taking actions corresponding with actual measures they have taken [for denuclearization],” Moon was quoted as saying by Yoon.

Moon said that while there were conflicting views on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Pyongyang, his perception was that the two were on the right track and that “working-level negotiations have begun.”

Moon’s state visit to Singapore was the first such visit in 15 years for a South Korean president.

Moon is scheduled to return to Seoul on Saturday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]