A new chapter with Russia

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A new chapter with Russia

President Park Geun-hye will have a summit meeting with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held for two days from Sept. 2. It is a wise decision to hold the summit, and we expect a new chapter in Korea-Russia relations, with more cooperative terms, resulting from the top-level meeting.

Russia could provide us a way out of the current standoff with Beijing sparked by the government’s decision to deploy the Terminal Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system. While Moscow opposes Thaad on the peninsula, it maintains a much tougher stance on Pyongyang than Beijing, which keeps a rather ambivalent position on its Communist ally’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

If Seoul succeeds in delivering its rationale for the Thaad deployment and draws Moscow’s understanding, Korea could hope for Russia’s cooperation in addressing North Korea’s nuclear ambition. If Russia takes a forward approach to Thaad, it could lead to the softening of China’s protest toward Thaad deployment.

Economic issues are as important as security issues. The Russian government has made an economic development plan in its far-flung eastern area as a top policy priority. To implement its far-eastern development plan, it has designated 15 ports around Vladivostok as free trade ports and opened up 10 so-called pioneering development zones, courting overseas investment from Korea and Japan. China’s interest in Moscow’s far-east development program is overwhelming. It has proposed Moscow connect its railway from Hunchun in far-eastern Jilin Province to Vladivostok.

We need to increase our stakes in Russia’s far-eastern development plan. Making an investment in it in the end could turn into a platform of co-existence with North Korea. Although current inter-Korean relations are frozen due to the North’s provocations, Korea could resume the Raijin-Hassan project to make Raijin the hub of northeastern Asia’s trade once sanctions on Pyongyang are lifted.

Korea could also move to secure Russia’s gas pipelines in the far-eastern area to turn Raijin into a center to provide energy that is backed by China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas. If that scenario becomes reality, it would contribute peace and prosperity not only for the Korean Peninsula but also for northeast Asia.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 8, Page 30.
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