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How a Russia-North Korea Summit Could Contribute to Stability in Northeast Asia

The denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula depends on Russia playing a constructive role. The establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula can contribute not only to substantial advances in Korea-Russia relations but also to full-scale multilateral economic cooperation projects between the two Koreas and Russia, and toward peace and common prosperity in Northeast Asia and Eurasia.
As we know, the second North Korea-US summit failed to produce an agreement. However, I do not consider this meeting a failure. Rather, I believe that an agreement between North Korea and the US has been postponed to the third North Korea-US summit. On the positive side, this second North Korea-US summit was a good opportunity for the leaders of the two countries to clearly understand what their opponents are demanding. Therefore, if North Korea and the United States continue their dialogue in the future, the possibility of mutual agreement will increase. Now that the two countries understand each other’s demands more clearly, they can progress toward substantial agreements regarding what concessions they can make toward denuclearization and the lifting of sanctions. In conclusion, the second North Korea‒US summit can be considered a preparatory process for a higher level of denuclearization, and we look forward to seeing a third North Korea-US summit, within the year if possible.

At this point, it is difficult to speculate about when or where Chairman Kim’s might pay a visit to Russia. However, I think there is a possibility he will make a formal visit to Russia in the near future. According to a March 25 report by Yonhap News, Chief Secretary Kim Chang-son of the North Korean State Affairs Commission, who is also the chief of protocol for Chairman Kim, visited Moscow and discussed the issue with Russia. In addition, high-level contacts between the two countries have recently become active in celebration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between North Korea and Russia. However, neither Russia nor North Korea have officially announced a North Korea-Russia summit yet. I personally think it is time for the two nations to hold a summit, which I believe will make a significant contribution to the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula.



Of course, it is difficult to predict what would be on the agenda of a North Korea-Russia summit. North Korea, however, is likely to propose an expansion of economic exchanges in non-sanction areas, namely, the expansion of tourism to North Korea. Russia, on the other hand, could propose to North Korea a faster denuclearization process as well as various railway, oil and gas pipeline and transmission line connection projects with South Korea passing through North Korea. We could also expect discussions on the results of the second North Korea‒US summit, denuclearization and lifting of sanctions against North Korea, the issue of overseas workers forced to return to North Korea by December 2019, and the issue of installing a new bridge pier for vehicles alongside the Korea–Russia Friendship Bridge over the Tumen River estuary.

The rapidly improving North Korea‒Russia relationship has an important role in the international relations of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. Therefore, after the second North Korea‒US summit at Hanoi, I believe that the roles of the neighboring countries including Russia will be important as we confirm the positions of North Korea and the US, and explore possible response measures. It is within this context that the possibility of holding a North Korea‒Russia summit is recently being discussed, and this is closely related to Chairwoman of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko. Following her visit to North Korea in September 2018 she mentioned the possibility of a North Korea‒Russia summit. However, at this stage, it is practically impossible to predict the timing and venue of a North Korea‒Russian summit, or the agenda and the extent of measures to improve relations between the two sides.

I believe there is strategic value in improving relations between North Korea and Russia in the process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. Thus it will be necessary for Russia to play a role as a mediator to enable North Korea to take more advanced measures toward denuclearization, and I also hope for trilateral cooperation projects to actively proceed between the two Koreas and Russia based on stronger connectivity between the Korean Peninsula and Russian Far East. In addition, I sincerely wish that Russia will be able to participate in the East Asian Railway Community initiative. As we cooperate with Russia in line with the Nine Bridges plan, for instance in the areas of railway and electric power, Korea will have to produce substantial achievements in science, technology and healthcare cooperation to secure future growth engines. In addition, Korea will have to make efforts to achieve the economic cooperation goal of 30 billion dollars in trade and 1 million people in human exchange by 2020, the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Russia.

I would like to conclude by emphasizing once again that the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula depends on Russia playing a constructive role. The establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula can contribute not only to substantial advances in Korea-Russia relations but also to full-scale multilateral economic cooperation projects between the two Koreas and Russia, and toward peace and common prosperity in Northeast Asia and Eurasia. I sincerely expect for cooperation and support from Russia to allow the Korean government’s policies toward a peace-driven economy to bear significant fruits.

By: Lee Jae-Young

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