SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States held talks Thursday to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation with Southeast Asian countries based on Seoul’s New Southern Policy and Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the foreign ministry said.

During the video talks, the two sides discussed how they can work with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for substantive cooperation in seven areas, including health, infrastructure, smart city, green growth and digital innovation, the ministry said.

The New Southern Policy, pushed for by the Moon Jae-in government, is aimed at deepening economic and other ties with Southeast Asian countries, primarily the 10 ASEAN members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The two sides were led by Park Jae-kyung, director general for ASEAN and Southeast Asian affairs at Seoul’s foreign ministry, and Atul Keshap, U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, they discussed efforts to increase support to help ASEAN countries improve general medical systems to overcome the disease and enhance their healthcare services.

The two sides also decided to work closely to help businesses discover new opportunities and provide them with financial support for joint infrastructure projects in the ASEAN region.

“The meeting is meaningful from looking at it in the frame of expanding the New Southern Policy and also of promoting the alliance and bilateral relations with the United States,” a ministry official said.

In the talks, they also shared assessments and policy directions on the current situations in the ASEAN region, the ministry said.

On Myanmar, the two sides urged an immediate end to violence, release of political prisoners and recovery of democracy, while reaffirming the support for a rules-based order that respects the freedom of navigation in South China Sea.