A door to Eurasia“The ruler of the East” is the loose translation of Vladivostok, known as a base for Korean independence fighters during Japanese colonial rule.
Following a visit three years ago to St. Petersburg — Russia’s window to the West — my latest trip to Vladivostok — Russia’s window to the East — confirmed Moscow’s grand vision to find a new path in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Far East, under President Vladimir Putin’s Ostpolitik.
The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) attended by President Park Geun-hye last week was launched last year by Russia to present its blueprint to develop the Far East and build a partnership with the Asia-Pacific region. The newly opened aquarium in Primorsky Kray, Russia’s farthest southeastern region, also serves as a symbol of Russia’s desire to develop the Far East and the Pacific.
In this vision of 21st century Russia, the Far Eastern region, where Vladivostok is located, is very important, both economically and geopolitically. Putin invited Park as the main guest of the forum and spent most of the time during the Korea-Russia summit on various issues linked to the development of the Far East to express Russia’s anticipation that Korea is the best partner for the new policy.
The Far Eastern Region comprises 40 percent of Korea’s trade with Russia, and more than half of the Russian people visiting Korea are from the area. Of the energy resources such as oil and coal imported by Korea, about 10 percent come from the region. The region is an important bridgehead for advancing Korea’s relationship with Russia.
Park was accompanied by 130 businessmen from 70 conglomerates, midsize firms and small companies and some 20 memoranda of understanding in various fields were signed as well as an agreement to cooperate on maritime search and rescue. Agreements include cooperation in space and Arctic projects as well.
Russia launched the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in January 2015 to economically integrate the Eurasian continent. Seoul and Moscow agreed at the summit that negotiations on a free trade agreement between Korea and the EAEU will start in October. The future-oriented economic cooperation between the two countries is meaningful as a new growth engine for the Eurasian region.
For the Eurasia Initiative of the Park administration, Primorsky Kray is a crucial link from not only an economic perspective but also in terms of national security. The Eurasia Express expedition, which saw great success in the summer of last year, did not select Vladivostok as its starting point by coincidence. Korea should find a clue in its vision to control the ocean and the Eurasian continent from Russia’s Far East.
The satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night clearly presented the brutal reality of North Korea’s isolation. As Park consistently stressed in her speech at the EEF and her summit with Putin, resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis is the most imperative task to make the isolated North a responsible member of the international community.
During Park’s latest trip, Putin made an unprecedentedly strong comment that Russia will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. He made it clear that the North will not be recognized as a nuclear state and urged it to respect UN resolutions. He also strongly promoted nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
The summit took place on Saturday, six months after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2270. The two leaders agreed that the resolution, the strongest non-military sanctions in the 70-year history of the UN, must be fully implemented and the international community’s cooperation to pressure and sanction the North must continue firmly.
Korea-Russia relations marked their 25th year last year, and the ties have important value. Strengthening relations with Russia, which seeks to expand in the Asia-Pacific region by developing the Far East, is particularly important because it could offer a range of new economic opportunities as well as prompting peace and prosperity by building trust on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.
Wrapping up the summit, Putin said Korea and Russia should advance together, which seemed to reflect this genuine intention.
As Park has stressed repeatedly since her first summit with Putin three years ago, Korea and Russia must together create successes in various fields. As Putin spoke at the forum, Russia’s new Ostpolitik is a strategy created by meticulously studying the development models of China, Korea and Singapore. To this end, not only the government but also business, media and academic communities must put effort into finding synergies.
Park’s recent visit to Vladivostok confirmed the importance of the Far Eastern region in realizing Russia’s dream toward the Pacific and our dream toward Eurasia. It was also a landmark opportunity that reconfirmed the importance of the bilateral cooperation, including trust between the two leaders, in resolving the Korean Peninsula issues, including the North’s nuclear threat.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 5, Page 33
*The author is the minister of foreign affairs.