By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in on Sept. 2 arrived in Thailand, the first leg of his three-nation tour of Southeast Asia, and held summit talks with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on enhancing bilateral ties and Korea's relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
After the approximately two-hour-long summit, both leaders in a joint news conference announced reaching a consensus on mutual prosperity, enhancement of friendly ties and cooperation for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Prayuth said the two countries have much to cooperate in vis-à-vis Korea-ASEAN relations, which transcend mere bilateral ties. He emphasized the need to strengthen bilateral cooperation based on mutual trust and friendship.
The annual people-to-people exchange of 2.3 million people between the two countries in tourism and cultural exchanges is serving as a strong cornerstone for bilateral relations, the two leaders said. They also pledged to strengthen support for Thai students majoring in Korean studies and bolster the institutional foundations to protect the rights of their nationals in each other's country.
The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in the economic sector, ratifying memorandums of understanding on cooperation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and forming a joint working group to augment cooperation in the bio sector, smart electrical cars and new industries.
Cheong Wa Dae said the enhancement of bilateral cooperation with Thailand, an important partner in Seoul's New Southern Policy, laid the cornerstone for a successful summit with ASEAN and the first Korea-Mekong summit slated for Busan in November.
The Mekong event will feature the participation of Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, the five ASEAN member nations through which the Mekong River runs.
President Moon became the first Korean president to pay a state visit to Thailand in seven years. He mentioned Thailand's participation in the Korean War in 1950, the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1958 and elevation of bilateral relations in 2012 to the level of a "strategic partnership."
He also expressed hope that the two countries will continue their "cooperative, amicable and future-oriented relations."
After a one-day itinerary in Thailand, President Moon will make a state visit to Myanmar from Sept. 3-5.