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Moon defends PM’s overseas trips

President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday highlighted the role of the prime minister in diplomatic affairs, saying the country needs to operate a “two-top” system of summit diplomacy. 

President Moon Jae-in speaks at Tuesday`s Cabinet meeting. Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in speaks at Tuesday`s Cabinet meeting. Yonhap

“With the demand for summit diplomacy increasing rapidly, it has become difficult for the president to handle it alone. Therefore there is a need for the president and the prime minister to divide the roles to work on summit diplomacy together,” Moon said.

Moon added that due to his government’s efforts to expand the country’s diplomatic horizons through policies such as the New Southern Policy and New Northern Policy, the need has increased for overseas trips by top government officials.

Moon went on to cite other countries that operate such a two-top system of diplomacy, where the president and prime minister each serve roles in diplomatic affairs.

“The prime minister’s summit-level diplomacy is contributing not only to expanding the scope of our diplomacy, but to supporting local companies’ operations,” Moon said, going on to list economic potential the four countries Lee is currently visiting.

The comments made at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting are thought to be an attempt to fend off criticism of Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon for leaving the country even as the trade and diplomatic spat with Japan intensifies.

Lee left the country Saturday on a nine-day tour of Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Qatar. With Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha also absent from the country, the opposition bloc has voiced criticism that high-level officials are absent when they should be dealing with the Japan issue. Kang is currently on a seven-day trip to Africa.

Ahead of Lee’s departure, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party claimed that the prime minister should cancel his trip, saying that government officials responsible for dealing with Japan’s trade measures and their impact are vacating their posts.

By Choi He-suk (