South Korea-Mekong foreign ministers’ meeting to begin

Ministers from South Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam will meet virtually today at the 10th Mekong-Republic of Korea

S Korean Mekong

Photo: ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit/ AP

Ministers from South Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam will meet virtually today at the 10th Mekong-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers meeting.

Today’s ministerial meeting will evaluate the development of Mekong-ROK relations since the establishment of the 2019 Mekong-ROK Summit. The Summit elevated relations from a historically ministerial-level collaboration to include heads of state, providing a forum for national leaders to discuss the future of Mekong-ROK cooperation.

South Korea’s active courting of the Mekong countries is similar to the US and Japan, which have expressed concern about China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Under the “New Southern Policy” (NSP), Seoul has pledged to invest resources into the region’s development. The NSP, in tandem with other policies, such as the US Lower Mekong Initiative and the Japan-Mekong Cooperation, offers Mekong countries alternative sources of investment to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation. South Korea’s policy may help provide a balance against future Chinese assertiveness by diversifying investment opportunities in the Mekong region.

The results of today’s meeting will likely only reaffirm the commitments made at the Mekong-ROK Summit. However, in the near term, expect ties to strengthen, particularly as 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Mekong-ROK cooperation.

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