9 Nov 2010

Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan: Medvedev‘s visit to Seoul will give concrete shape to Korean-Russian Strategic Cooperative Partnership

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev starts a visit to the Republic of Korea on Wednesday marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Following the visit, the Russian president will take part in a G20 summit in Seoul. Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan says what Korea expects from these meetings in an interview with Interfax.

Question: What does Korea expect from the upcoming G20 summit and in particular from the visit of President Medvedev? Are any bilateral agreements or contracts to be signed during the visit?

Answer: Korea and Russia have embraced a similar stance with regard to enhancing the role of the G20 and the two countries have therefore been reinforcing cooperation in this regard.

Moreover, Russia has demonstrated a keen interest in establishing a system to protect the marine environment following the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Korea, as the G20 Chair, is cooperating closely with Russia on this matter through the Energy Experts Group.

The upcoming visit by President Dmitry Medvedev, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia, is expected to be of value in giving concrete shape to the ‘Strategic Cooperative Partnership‘ between the two countries and developing the future-oriented relationship.

President Lee Myung-bak and President Dmitry Medvedev will hold a summit meeting and engage in in-depth discussions on ways to increase substantive cooperation in such areas of mutual interest as energy and natural resources, the development of the Russian Far East and Siberia, and Russia‘s economic modernization. The two Leaders will also discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, as well as mutual cooperation in the international arena including the G20 Summit.

During President Dmitry Medvedev‘s visit, a number of agreements and MOUs will be signed in various fields in which practical cooperation is under way.

Q.: Modernization has lately been one of Russia‘s top priorities. Are Korea and Korean companies ready to help Russia modernize its economy and in which tangible ways could Korea contribute to this?

A.: Korea is an excellent partner in the process of Russia‘s economic modernization, given that Korea has emerged as one of the world‘s IT powers in such a short period.

The five priority areas of Russia‘s economic modernization are the focus of attention for Korean companies as future engines of growth. They are interested in technology exchanges with Russian partners and participation in the development of the Skolkovo Innovation Center.

High-ranking government officials and business people from both countries gathered in Seoul on October 13th to hold a joint forum on cooperation in the area of economic modernization, which was indeed a good starting-point for the promotion of cooperation between our two countries.

There is huge potential for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries. Combining Korea‘s excellent technology, which can readily be put to commercial use, and Russia‘s original technology will lead to a win-win situation for both countries.

Q.: The number of Russian tourists visiting the Republic of Korea has steadily increased. Are there any plans to introduce a visa waiver program for Russian citizens to boost exchanges in the field of tourism?

A.: I am pleased to note the dynamic development of bilateral relations, including the increase in people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

As part of the efforts to enhance people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, we recently concluded the ‘Agreement on the Facilitation of the Issuance of Visas for Short-term Visits’. Furthermore, we will sign the ‘Agreement on Temporary Labour Activities’ at the upcoming summit between the two leaders on the occasion of the G-20 Seoul Summit.

For the development of bilateral relations, both sides need to accord serious consideration to the conclusion of a ‘Visa Waiver Agreement for Ordinary Passport Holders of the ROK and Russia‘.

Q.: Is the Republic of Korea interested in developing cooperation with Russia in the field of energy? What are the possibilities for joint projects? Do you expect any large-scale deals or contracts in this field in the near future?

A.: Russia has vast reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals while Korea is one of the largest importers of energy resources. The two countries are cooperating actively in this field. Korea started importing Russian oil through the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) and LNG from Sakhalin gas field last year.

Korea is interested not only in importing Russia‘s energy resources, but also in carrying out joint projects with Russia for the exploitation of its oil, gas and mineral resources. Being geographically close to Russia and having excellent industrial technology, Korea can be an excellent partner for the Russian government which is actively pursuing plans to develop energy resources in the Russian Far East and Siberia.

Many companies from our two countries are actively engaged in consultations for the development of energy resources in the Russian Far East and Siberia. We hope these consultations lead to concrete joint projects in this field.

Q.: The Six-Party Talks are still in a deadlock. Will this issue be raised during President Medvedev‘s visit? Can the talks resume in the near future? Is the Six-Party Talks format still alive or is it necessary to look for some other formats to tackle the problem?

A.: Both of our governments share the view that realizing the denuclearization of North Korea is essential for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. President Lee and President Medvedev are planning to discuss ways to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea through the Six-Party Talks at the upcoming summit.

Despite North Korea‘s recent statement on its willingness to return to the Six-Party Talks and implement the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005, Pyongyang has not demonstrated sincerity toward denuclearization. There has been no evident substantial change in North Korea‘s attitude and behaviour toward the nuclear issue.

For the Six-Party Talks to lead to substantial progress in the nuclear issue and not be a venue for dialogue for dialogue‘s sake, North Korea must first demonstrate sincerity toward denuclearization by taking concrete action.

The five parties, Korea, Russia, United States, China and Japan share the position that the Six-Party Talks is a useful framework for the realization of the denuclearization of North Korea.

The ROK continues to engage in diplomatic efforts to realize complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in close consultation with other countries in the Six-Party Talks.

We will lay the groundwork for the resumption of the talks through bilateral and multilateral consultations including inter-Korean dialogue within the Six-Party Talks framework.