SEOUL, South Korea's new ambassador for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's participation in a summit with the bloc later this year, if realized, would be meaningful for peace efforts on the peninsula.
Ambassador Lim Sung-nam made the remarks as Seoul is mulling inviting Kim to the special summit between South Korea and the 10-member association, better known as ASEAN, which is slated to occur in the southeastern port city of Busan in November.
"Should there be positive movements that will lead North Korea's State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim to join the South Korea-ASEAN summit, I think it would serve as a meaningful chance for peace and dialogue efforts on the peninsula," Lim said during a meeting with reporters.
But the former vice foreign minister said there has not been any decision made yet over whether Kim will join the Busan summit designed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of South Korea-ASEAN dialogue relations.
Seoul has been exploring ways to deepen engagement with Pyongyang to create fresh momentum for the resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations between the United States and the North.
The talks between Washington and Pyongyang have hit an impasse since the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February collapsed due to a failure to bridge their gaps on the scope of denuclearization and sanctions relief.
Upon Lim's appointment as Seoul's top envoy for the region based in Jakarta, Seoul has elevated the level of the post to vice minister from director general in a show of its will to beef up ties with ASEAN, the ambassador said.
"I understand that my appointment reflects the trend of the bilateral relations getting closer and (South Korea's) will to strengthen that trend," he said.
Under the New Southern Policy initiative, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been seeking to deepen and broaden relations with ASEAN, an increasingly crucial partner for its geopolitical influence, growth potential and rich resources.
Lim pointed out that the ASEAN-centric policy represents a start of a shift in Seoul's diplomacy that has thus far focused mostly on "major powers on the peninsula's periphery."
"For the Republic of Korea to become a middle-power state in genuine terms, it needs to broaden its diplomatic perspective that has centered on its periphery," the ambassador pointed out.
Lim then underscored the importance of Seoul's relations with ASEAN in numerical terms.
"ASEAN is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, and the average age of the population is in the 30s, meaning people in the region are young and active in their productive capabilities, and representing the possibility of the region emerging as a key consumer market," he said.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. As a whole, it has around 640 million people the world's third-largest population after China and India with its gross domestic product reaching US$2.7 trillion, the third largest in Asia.
The bloc, moreover, 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