Flexible approach is needed

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Flexible approach is needed

President Park Geun-hye and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to not allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons at Saturday’s summit in Vladivostok on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum. Both leaders also agreed to facilitate communications to address the North’s threats.

In particular, Putin stressed a need to not approve of the North’s “self-proclaimed status” as a nuclear power, while refraining from mentioning his opposition to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system. Thanks to the Russian leader’s tacit support, President Park strengthened Seoul’s footing on the sensitive issue at Monday’s summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Despite Park and Putin’s agreement in 2013 to expand both countries’ economic cooperation, the consensus became nearly null and void after the Rajin-Khasan logistics project in which Russia invested heavily, came to a halt after the North’s nuclear tests. But both sides could find a breakthrough this time after Park accepted Putin’s invitation to develop the Russian Far East.

Both leaders agreed to push forward a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) — which consists of Russia and five former Soviet republics — for a huge tariff-free market in an area with a population of 180 million and an overall GDP of $1.6 trillion.

Korea must promote its trade with Russia as well as China and Japan so as to revitalize economic cooperation. That will most likely help attract North Korea to the massive development project. The government needs to consider the idea of establishing an industrial complex — like the one in Kaesong — in the Far East to find ways for co-prosperity, as discussed on the recent Peace Odyssey 2016 organized by the JoongAng Ilbo.

South Korea faces tougher times than ever due to the North’s nuclear experiments and Japan’s rightist movement. That calls for creative diplomacy. Park’s summit with Putin showed Russia could offer a breakthrough.

But we have a bumpy road ahead. Putin indirectly showed discontent about our hard-line North Korea policy, while stressing opposition to the North’s nuclear armament. President Park appropriately reacted to his position by insisting on the installation of the missile defense system as long as there are nuclear threats from the North. But that is just the beginning. The government must employ flexible diplomacy to ease Moscow and Beijing’s concerns and resolve a nuclear crisis.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 5, Page 34
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