(News Focus) Yoon seeks to carve out bigger role for S. Korea in Indo-Pacific, world

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol wrapped up a six-day trip to Indonesia and India on Sunday after engaging in a flurry of diplomacy to strengthen relations with countries in the Indo-Pacific region and help tackle global challenges, such as climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Yoon began the trip in Jakarta, where he attended a series of annual summits involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional grouping that is gaining increasing strategic importance in the context of the U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry.

During the summits, Yoon announced plans to flesh out the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative, which centers on enhancing strategic cooperation with the bloc, and declared the "full support" of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan for an ASEAN-led regional architecture.

The summits also allowed him to issue a stern warning against military cooperation with North Korea amid news reports that its leader Kim Jong-un may travel to Vladivostok this week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss a possible arms deal.

"Attempts at military cooperation with North Korea, which damage peace in the international community, should be stopped immediately," Yoon said, according to the presidential office, without elaborating further.

While discussing the need to block sources of funding for North Korea's nuclear and missile development, Yoon also took aim at China and Russia, two U.N. Security Council members accused of being lukewarm on enforcing sanctions resolutions against the North.

"The responsibility of the Security Council's permanent members that adopted the resolutions can be said to be heavier," he said as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Premier Li Qiang sat in the room.

The ASEAN summits provided a venue for Yoon to engage in bilateral diplomacy, including with Li, and the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Singapore. The summit with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. included a signing ceremony for a bilateral free trade agreement, which is expected to boost South Korean auto exports to the Southeast Asian nation.

Yoon's trip to Indonesia doubled as a bilateral visit marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Indonesia. During a bilateral summit, Yoon and Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed to strengthen their countries' security and economic partnership in areas including arms and electric vehicle infrastructure.

From Jakarta, Yoon traveled to New Delhi to attend a Group of 20 (G20) summit.

In line with his administration's vision to turn South Korea into a global pivotal state, Yoon pledged during the G20 sessions to contribute an additional US$300 million to the Green Climate Fund to help counter climate change. He also pledged to provide an additional $2.3 billion in aid for Ukraine to help the nation restore peace and rebuild in the wake of its war with Russia.

Yoon held multiple bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit as well, including with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

With Modi, Yoon agreed to boost cooperation in defense and space, while with Kishida, he agreed to work toward realizing a trilateral summit with China.

In all of his bilateral meetings, Yoon asked for the countries' support for South Korea's bid to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan.

Source: Yonhap News Agency