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S. Korean president embarks on trip to three ASEAN countries
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SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday headed for Brunei, the first stop on his three-nation tour that will later take him to Malaysia and Cambodia.

 Moon's first overseas trip this year is largely designed to improve his country's relationship with the three member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

 "ASEAN is expanding its influence on the global economy based on its rapid growth and openness that also represent a large economic bloc of 650 million people and combined gross domestic product of $2.76 trillion," Moon's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said earlier.

 The 10-member ASEAN is already South Korea's second-largest trading partner in the world, with their bilateral trade reaching a record high of US$160 billion last year.

 Seoul is set to host a special summit with the heads of state of all 10 ASEAN countries later in the year. The special summit to be held in South Korea will also mark the 30th anniversary of the start of South Korea-ASEAN dialogue.

 The South Korean president has repeatedly stressed the importance of ASEAN, also introducing the so-called New Southern Policy as one of his two major foreign policies that seeks to boost his country's economic and diplomatic ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors, including India.

 Under the New Southern Policy, South Korea seeks to boost its bilateral trade with ASEAN to more than $200 billion in 2020.

 "The visits this time will be an opportunity to further diversify our overseas market and global value chain that are currently focused too much on the United States and China by accelerating the implementation of the New Southern Policy," Cheong Wa Dae said.

 Moon will arrive in Brunei later in the day on a three-day state visit that will include a summit with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

 He will make a three-day state visit to Malaysia from Tuesday for a summit with Sultan Abdullah of Pahang and a meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

 Moon's trip will end in Cambodia, where he will hold a summit with Prime Minister Hun Sen and also call on King Norodom Sihamoni.

 He will be making a state visit to Cambodia, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

 The South Korean president will return home Saturday.

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