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President heads home after visit to India, Singapore

SINGAPORE -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in was set to return home Friday after a six-day tour of India and Singapore focused on broadening economic cooperation.

Moon wrapped up his three-day visit in Singapore with a meeting with South Korean business people and residents.

In a special lecture, given earlier in the day, the South Korean president vowed stepped-up efforts to peacefully denuclearize North Korea, while asking for Singapore's continued support and assistance in the process.

Moon's trip to Singapore followed the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held here on June 12.

In a summit with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, the South Korean president expressed his gratitude to the Singaporean leader for successfully hosting the first-ever US-North Korea summit that he said has led to "positive" and "unprecedented" changes on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon and Lee also agreed to expand the countries' bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

"Singapore and South Korea have a lot in common. The countries both achieved extraordinary economic growth through investment in the people and ceaseless innovation. They have worked together with a common goal of a free, open economy, and peace and stability in the region," Moon told a joint press conference with Lee that followed their bilateral summit.

Later attending a business forum, involving 300 top business leaders from both countries, the South Korean president said he and Lee agreed to work for the conclusion of negotiations for the China-led regional free trade agreement, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), within the year.

"Today, our two countries agreed to cooperate on the conclusion of RCEP negotiations within the year. The most important issue in RCEP negotiations is not the level of market liberalization but its timing. By concluding the negotiations at the earliest date possible, we may be able to create a new wave in global trade amid a spread of trade protectionism," Moon said.

The joint efforts for an early conclusion of RCEP negotiations come amid an unprecedented trade war between the world's two largest economies -- the United States and China -- that many experts believe may trigger a global recession.

RCEP, if signed, is expected to be one of the world's largest free trade arrangements with its current members accounting for half of global production and 29 percent of global trade in 2017.

The ongoing negotiations currently involve 16 countries, including the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Throughout his Asian tour that began Sunday, the South Korean president reiterated his efforts to greatly improve South Korea's relationship with the 10 ASEAN countries and India, which South Korea's Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong earlier said could become the "next China" or the world's largest market for South Korea.

ASEAN countries already form the world's second-largest importer of South Korean goods and services after China.

On his way home, Moon tweeted, "Cooperation between Singapore and Korea is not only for peace on the Korean Peninsula but also for peace throughout the world," and praised Singapore's achievement of "prosperity while pursuing peace."

Expressing gratitude to the Singaporean people for their support for the successful summit between Washington and Pyongyang, Moon vowed to strive further by joining with the Singaporean leader to fill their nations "with more hope so that the lives of the

people will be improved."   

Moon's state visit to Singapore was the first by a South Korean leader in 15 years. He was set to arrive home later in the day. (Yonhap)