[VIEWPOINT]‘Neighbors are like cousins’Relations with the Republic of Korea have special value for Russia. The geographical proximity of the two nations, which brings to mind the Korean proverb: “Neighbors are like cousins,” undoubtedly plays its role in the relationship, along with the tight binding historically of the two nations’ destinies.
In the twentieth century, Russians and Koreans have been through many similar ordeals ― social upheavals, famines, bloody wars and devastation ― after which they have literally had to restart life from scratch. Within the last few decades, both Russia and the Republic of Korea accomplished the transition from authoritarian forms of governance to democracy. Both countries’ adherence to democracy in internal affairs defines our common adherence to principles of democracy in international affairs as well.
Russia considers the Republic of Korea an important partner for ensuring peace and security, not only in Northeast Asia but far beyond. The Republic of Korea, which has substantially enhanced its economic potential, is becoming an increasingly influential independent actor in the field of foreign policy.
A good foundation for the interaction of our two states originates from their common or close approaches to key international issues, namely, the creation of multipolar world order based on equality of all states with a key role played by the UN, the unacceptability of diktat in inter-state relations and the commitment to combating international terrorism and securing nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The region of Northeast Asia has a special importance in today’s world.
Here meet the boundaries of Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreans. The threat to international peace and security posed by the more than 50-year-old military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula is today aggravated by the non-settlement of the nuclear problem.
Moscow supports steps made by Seoul and Pyongyang toward building bridges of cooperation and attempts to make constructive contribution to the progress of six-party talks on the settlement of the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue.
We sincerely welcome the success of the fourth round of six-party talks in Beijing and hope for its further development. We do not rule out the likelihood that the current six-party talks may lay the ground for the future structure of peace, security and cooperation in Northeast Asia.
During our 15 years of cooperation, considerable progress was achieved in the relations between Russia and the Republic of Korea. There is practically no sphere of human activities where our countries do not cooperate. Cooperation on land and in the sea is followed by cooperation in space. In 2004, the corresponding intergovernmental agreement was signed and it is planned that by 2007, the first South Korean cosmonaut will be launched with Russian assistance.
The trade turnover between Russia and the Republic of Korea has been growing progressively. By our estimations, in 2005 it could exceed $8 billion. This amount is surely lower than that of South Korea’s trade with some other countries. However, we expect that the implementation of joint investment projects ― first of all in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, the automobile industry and others ― will allow us to multiply the volume of mutual trade. However, one should not consider Russia as just a supplier of raw materials to the South Korean market. For example, currently more than one-third of civil helicopters used in the Republic of Korea are Russian-made. Several commercial agreements on joint scientific research as well as experimental and construction work, along with the production of high technology goods under Russian licenses in the Republic of Korea, are under way.
Wide horizons are also opened through our cooperation on infrastructural projects. The “Europe-Korea” railway corridor is among them. This artery could become one of the pillars of integration of the architecture of Eurasian economic space. The participation of North Korea in this project, as well as its joining the project for a common electricity supply system in Northeast Asia and a net of pipelines, would promote further development of mutually beneficial, good-neighborly relations between the two Koreas, contributing to a strengthening of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as a whole.
As it was stated in the Russia-Korea Joint Declaration during President Roh Moo-hyun’s visit to Russia in September 2004, relations between the two countries are clearly coming to the level of a trustful and multifaceted partnership.
The forthcoming meeting of the leaders of our countries in Busan this November is an important landmark along this path.
* The writer is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Korea.
by Gleb A. Ivashentsov