Putin flies to Seoul for a single-day, busy summit

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Putin flies to Seoul for a single-day, busy summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin is coming to Seoul for a summit with President Park Geun-hye this morning but is curtailing his itinerary by a day, the Blue House said yesterday.

Putin had originally been scheduled to stay in Seoul for two days from last night, but the trip was shortened for unspecified reasons. He will arrive this morning instead.

Park and Putin will be meeting for the second time in just two months after a summit on the sidelines of the Group of 20 conference in St. Petersburg in September. They are expected to talk about a range of issues, from North Korea to economic cooperation.

The Russian president’s day in Seoul will have a tight schedule. The summit in the morning will be followed by a meeting of government officials from both nations, a ceremony to sign a joint statement, a joint press conference that will be broadcast live and a formal luncheon.

Putin’s visit will be in the limelight because Russia’s role in the security of Northeast Asia has been heightened with the prospect of resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea. Putin’s visit here could propel a reopening of the talks, political analysts predict.

The series of meetings involving the United States, Russia, Japan, China and the two Koreas began in 2003. But they were stalled in December 2008, and North Korea walked out of the talks in April 2009 in protest of international condemnation of its long-range missile tests.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss an action plan for a new vision that President Park came up with in Seoul on Oct. 18 for regional and economic cooperation between Europe and Asia, which she dubbed the “Eurasia Initiative.” The president proposed building a Silk Road Express, a network of roads and railways running from Busan through South and North Korea, Russia and China, and onto Europe.

“The Eurasia Initiative may help us advance into Europe via the Silk Road, while inspiring North Korea to open up its market further,” said a Blue House official.

With regard to economic cooperation, the two leaders are expected to discuss the Rajin-Khasan railway project, and what they decide may be announced in the joint statement afterward. The project involves Russia and North Korea, and Seoul wishes to participate in the modernization process of the railroad and complex logistics business. On the diplomatic side, the two countries are set to come up with a road map outlining bilateral relations for the next five years, including introducing a visa-free travel policy between the two nations.

The third-term Russian president, who was first elected in 2000, is the first national leader among the four major powers with a deep relationship with Korea - the United States, China, Japan and Russia - to visit Korea for a summit with Park.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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