Russia seeking Korean cooperation in the Far East

Posted on : 2014-05-07 14:31 KST Modified on : 2014-05-07 14:31 KST
Deputy Prime Minister’s moves toward increasing Korean involvement in Russia apparently a response to US ‘rebalancing Asia’ policy
 Russian Deputy Prime Minister
Russian Deputy Prime Minister

By Gil Yun-hyung, Tokyo correspondent

At the end of April, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev visited North Korea and proposed three-way economic cooperation between North Korea, South Korea, and Russia to promote development of the Russian Far East. The proposal could be intended to counter the American policy of ‘rebalancing Asia’.

Japanese newspaper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on May 6 that Trutnev had promoted trilateral economic cooperation during his three-day visit to North Korea from Apr. 28 to Apr. 30. The move was calculated not only to promote economic development in the Far East, a long-standing Russian goal, but also to counter ‘rebalancing Asia policy’ being pushed by US President Barack Obama, the paper said.

The highest-ranking Russian official to visit North Korea since Kim Jong-un took power in Dec. 2012, Trutnev also serves as the Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District. In Nov. 2013, he visited South Korea, where he discussed bilateral economic collaboration and cooperation for developing the Far East with Minister of Strategy and Finance Hyun Oh-seok.

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that, during his visit to North Korea, Trutnev discussed building a natural gas pipeline and the Trans-Korean Railroad through North Korea to link Russia and South Korea and the possibility of Russian corporations taking part in the development of mines in North Korea. ITAR-TASS also reported that the Deputy Prime Minister proposed holding an international conference in Moscow or the Far East to promote join development projects in which Russia, South and North could all participate.

“North Korea expressed its interest,” the wire service said, “and Trutnev indicated that he would confirm South Korea’s intentions before long.”

In connection with this, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Apr. 28 that Russia and North Korea had exchanged their opinions about issues of mutual interest to further bilateral economic cooperation, but it did not provide any details.

It is uncertain whether the Russian project will move forward according to plan. Not only have inter-Korean relations been put in jeopardy by signs that North Korea is preparing to carry out a fourth nuclear test, but Seoul also has to join efforts by the international community to place sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.

However, with Russia indicating its plans to pursue economic development by linking the Russian Far East with North and South Korea, the South Korean government will also likely have to set up mid- and long-term plans.


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