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Park to visit Indonesia, Brunei for regional summits, state visit

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Chang Jae-soon

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit Indonesia and Brunei next month for a series of regional cooperation summits, including APEC and ASEAN meetings, and a state visit to Jakarta, her office announced Friday.

Park will be in Indonesia's resort island of Bali from Oct. 6-8 for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum before visiting Brunei from Oct. 8-10 for a trio of regional summits led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

She will then return to Indonesia for a state visit to Jakarta from Oct. 10-12.

The weeklong trip will be Park's fourth overseas visit since she took office in February. She previously visited the United States in May, China in June and Russia and Vietnam earlier this month.

The visit to Bali is focused on economic cooperation.

On the day of her arrival, Park will deliver a keynote speech at a meeting of Pacific-Rim business leaders, known as APEC CEO summit, before attending the main APEC summit the following two days to talk about promoting trade and sustainable growth.

Park plans to call for international cooperation to make progress in the long-stalled world trade talks, known as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), put forward ways to increase connectivity among member economies and make a commitment to sustainable growth, officials said.

APEC was formed in 1989 in response to growing regionalism in other parts of the globe. Its 21 member economies account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 57 percent of global gross domestic product and 48 percent of world trade.

The forum is run by consensus, rather than binding agreements.

Since 1993, the heads of state from member countries have been meeting annually. At the end of their summit, they usually pose for group photos dressed in the host country's traditional clothes.

The summit has provided opportunities for bilateral talks among leaders on its margins.

Park also plans to meet bilaterally with other leaders, officials said without providing specifics because negotiations are under way to set up those meetings. The 21 APEC members include the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

In Brunei, Park will attend a trio of annual meetings: a summit with the 10-member ASEAN nations; a meeting between ASEAN and its three Northeast Asia dialogue partners South Korea, China and Japan; and a meeting of the East Asia Summit (EAS) forum.

Park plans to use the summit with ASEAN, set for Oct. 9, to express her commitment to bolstering economic and other cooperation with one of the world's fastest-growing regions and to build personal bonds with the leaders, officials said.

ASEAN has emerged as an increasingly important region to South Korea, with a combined population of 600 million and its GDP totaling about US$2.3 trillion. The region is South Korea's No. 1 investment destination and its second-largest trade partner, with two-way trade amounting to $131 billion last year.

The region is also the second-largest construction market for South Korea, with last year's construction orders from the region totaling $11 billion.

The two sides have made strides in their ties in recent years, establishing the Korea-ASEAN Center in Seoul in 2009, forging a free trade agreement later that year and upgrading their relations to a strategic partnership in 2010. South Korea also opened a diplomatic mission exclusively handling relations with ASEAN last year.

Economic cooperation is also expected to top the agenda for the ASEAN plus three summit set for Oct. 10, including cooperation in international finances and food security. During the meeting, Park plans to put forward ideas to chart a future for their cooperation, officials said.

Later on Oct. 10, Park will attend the EAS summit, an 18-nation forum grouping the 10 ASEAN nations plus its eight dialogue partners -- South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia, India and New Zealand.

Key topics for this year's meeting include food and energy security, climate change, and management of disaster and epidemics. Park plans to call for joint efforts to fight climate change and cope with disasters, officials said.

Park will then fly back to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, for a state visit that includes summit talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono mainly about increasing economic cooperation with the world's fourth-populous nation rich in energy and resources.

Officials said Park plans to use the visit to step up her "sales diplomacy" campaign.

South Korea and Indonesia have been drawn much closer to each other in recent years, with two-way trade volume doubling to nearly US$30 billion last year from just $14.9 billion in 2007.

Indonesia is the biggest Southeast Asian buyer for South Korea's defense industry. In 2011, the country awarded two massive contracts to South Korea, one of them to purchase submarines and the other to purchase T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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