Sultan's green offer to preserve environment
By James Kon in Jeju Island, Korea

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday hoped the Heart of Borneo initiative undertaken by Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia would complement South Korea's initiative in developing environment friendly technologies.

Towards strengthening collaboration in environmental protection, especially in safeguarding the region's diverse eco-system, His Majesty shared the Heart of Borneo initiatives undertaken by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to preserve the tropical forest and offered to share with the Koreans the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre as a potential venue for research in preserving the natural surroundings.

The monarch also expressed pleasure over the important milestones achieved in Asean's ties with Korea.

His Majesty spoke during the first session of the Asean-Republic of Korea (RoK) Commemorative Summit at the International Convention Centre, in Jeju yesterday.

His Majesty added that excellent progress and deepening of relations made by the two East Asian Dialogue Partners had not only benefited both sides, but had also greatly contributed to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity to the East Asian Region.

During the session, leaders from Asean and Korea reviewed Asean and Republic of Korea Dialogue Relations and strengthening cooperative relations in the political and security, economic and socio-cultural fields. The session was chaired by President Lee Myung-bak of Korea as the co-chairperson of the summit.

In acknowledging the efforts and commitments of Korea in enhancing Asean Korea Dialogue relations as a lasting partnership based on friendship and respect for one another, His Majesty shared his valuable ideas on how to elevate the regional cooperation further. His Majesty underscored the strategic value of economic partnership as illustrated by the increased two-way trade volume.

In welcoming the completion of the Asean Korea Free Trade Area negotiations, His Majesty stated that such development would play a pivotal role in restoring confidence as well as stimulating growth, especially during these difficult times.

With regards to the recent outbreak of influenza A-H1N1, His Majesty stressed the need for Asean and ROK to continue to work together in combating infectious diseases.

On regional security, His Majesty expressed concern with the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the resumption of the six-party talks and supported ROK's efforts to achieve a long lasting solution.

In ensuring a stronger people interaction, His Majesty emphasised greater educational and cultural exchanges, particularly those involving the youths, academia, cultural exchanges and media practitioners. In welcoming the youth exchange programme, which had run for the last 11 years, His Majesty suggested introduction of similar projects involving educators.

His Majesty commended the Korean government for the establishment of the Asean-Korea Centre and recognised that the centre would contribute to carrying out activities which would focus on enhancing skills and knowledge, especially in areas such as ICT and biotechnology.

President Lee and Thai Prime Minister Abisit Vejjajiva jointly presided over the summit under the theme of Partnership for Real, Friendship for Good.

After President Lee and Asean leaders discussed the future direction of Korea-Asean cooperation, all parties adopted three documents namely the Republic of Korea initiative on cultural and people-to-people cooperation with Asean, the Republic of Korea initiative on Development Cooperation with Asean and the Republic of Korea initiative on low carbon, green growth cooperation with Asean.

The first document involves strengthening of people-to-people and academic exchanges, including the expansion of scholarship programmes, development of various activities based on the respect for cultural diversity and strengthening of cultural expertise, establishment of a network for cultural heritage conservation, promotion of two-way tourism and cooperation for sustainable tourism.

The second document involves doubling Korea's ODA to Asean member states by 2015, actively sharing Korea's Development Experience, assist Asean member states in building socio-economic infrastructure to achieve the millennium development goals, expand assistance to address climate change, expand assistance for rural development to tackle food insecurity, strengthen trade competitiveness of Asean member states and increase Korea's trade and investment in Asean, render continued support for integration of Asean initiatives and strengthen cooperation with international and regional organisations to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of assistance.

The final document includes building a green growth development paradigm, changing production and consumption patterns, constructing green social infrastructure, exchanging technology expertise, increasing investment in the green industry to overcome the global economic downturn and establishing institutional mechanisms to strengthen efforts for enhanced low carbon green growth cooperation.

During the summit, President Lee explained to the Asean leaders that he would like to push forward with his new Asia initiative focusing on the reinforcement of diplomacy towards Asean. In response, Asean leaders expressed their support and agreed to work to increase bilateral trade, which amounted to US$90 billion in 2008.

On cultural interaction and people-to-people exchanges, President Lee said that the Asean and Korea Special Cooperation Fund would be increased and the government scholarship programme, "Global Korea Scholarship", would be expanded in a bid to strengthen two-way cultural interaction.

Later in the evening, His Majesty joined other Asean leaders at a welcoming dinner hosted by the Korean president and first lady Kim Yoon-ok at Lotte Hotel, in honour of the heads of state and governments attending the summit.

Today the summit will conclude with the signing of the joint statement by the Asean leaders, while during the second session, Asean leaders and the Korean president will exchange ideas on regional financial cooperation and climate changes. - Borneo Bulletin (2nd June 2009)