South Korea’s Yoon meets Indonesian leader to deepen economic, defense ties

JAKARTA, Indonesia — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met with his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, on Friday seeking to deepen economic ties and defense cooperation at a time of heightened global geopolitical tensions.

Yoon has been in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, since Tuesday attending the the three-day summit by leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with Asian and Western counterparts. That meeting spotlighted major conflicts in Asia, with calls for peaceful resolutions and restraint.

Widodo and his wife, Iriana, hosted Yoon and South Korean first lady Kim Keon Hee at a ceremony in the colonial-style Merdeka palace in Jakarta.

During their meeting, the two leaders agreed to deepen their strategic partnership in the security and defense industries and to expand cooperation in future-looking industries such as electric vehicles, batteries and smart cities.

Indonesia’s foreign affairs minister, Retno Marsudi, told reporters after the meeting that Widodo welcomed commitments made by South Korean company LG and its partners in Indonesia to “accelerate the realization of a grand investment package worth $9.8 billion for the construction of a cathode factory” on Indonesia’s Batam island, next to Singapore.

She added that factory construction is expected to start this year, involving Indonesia’s state-owned companies and regional businesses. Cathodes are key components in global battery production for electric vehicles.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has imported a total of $4.3 billion in South Korean arms, according to government data, making it the country’s largest export destination among ASEAN countries.

Indonesia is the only country to have imported a Korean submarine and also the first country to import Korea’s KT-1 and T-50 training aircraft. Indonesia is participating as a partner to shoulder 20% of a $6 billion deal to build Korea’s first domestically developed advanced fighter jet by 2026. The project began in 2015.

The two leaders on Friday took part in the signing of agreements on agriculture, infrastructure, electrical vehicle ecosystems and food exports, and discussed possible Korean investment in a new capital city. Indonesia plans to move its capital from the congested and polluted city of Jakarta on the main island of Java to Nusantara on Borneo island next year.

They also discussed regional issues, including Southeast Asia’s strategy to safeguard a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

In talks with Southeast Asian leaders, China and Japan, in Jakarta on Wednesday, Yoon raised concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations and underscored the need for a firm and united response from the international community.

Widodo, who turned over the leadership of the regional group to Laos during the Jakarta meetings, characterized ASEAN as a regional peacemaker that the world sorely needs.

Indonesia and South Korea are members of the Group of 20 major developed and emerging economies. The two leaders were scheduled to leave Jakarta on Friday afternoon for New Delhi to attend the G20 Summit.


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