Ambassador Vnukov: Russia, South Korea 'United by Joint Interest'

Russian Ambassador, H.E. Konstantin V. Vnukov (fifth from left) at Asia Society Korea Center's monthly luncheon series on May 15, 2012. (Asia Society Korea Center)

On May 15, 2012, H.E. Konstantin V. Vnukov, Russia's Ambassador to South Korea, was the guest speaker at the Asia Society Korea Center’s monthly luncheon series. The following are highlights of his remarks.

The Security of the Korean Peninsula

Partnership and cooperation with the Republic of Korea have significant value for our country in the development of wide-scale bilateral political and economic interaction, as well as in the creation of multilateral security in North East Asia. Russia and the Republic of Korea are united by joint interest in eliminating military threat in the region. The main source of such threat is the military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula between North and South Korea, aggravated nowadays by the non-resolved nuclear issue. Being responsible participants of the Six-Party Talks, Russia and the Republic of Korea demonstrate close cooperation, commonality, and proximity in positions toward basic aspects of the nuclear problem. Our two states are working both for the possibility of resuming the Six-Party Talks and at the elaboration of the Guide Principles of Peace and Security in Northeast Asia within the framework of the relevant Working Group under the presidency of the Russian Federation.

Currently the situation on the Korean peninsula has changed from hopeful to seriously concerning. Unfortunately, the leadership of North Korea adhered neither to the requirements of the UN Security Council resolution nor to the warnings of the international community, and launched another rocket. Our position is clear that Russia does not deny the sovereign right of DPRK to pursue peaceful exploration of outer space. However, as it is known, the UN Security Council Resolution 1874 requires Pyongyang to stop launching ballistic rockets, both military and civil. We call Pyongyang not to oppose itself against the international community, refrain from worsening the situation in the region and creating additional difficulties for resuming the Six-Party Talks. We evaluate Pyongyang’s rocket launch as a defiant violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1874.

At the same time, we expect maximum restraint from all Northeast Asian countries. From one side, it is necessary to convince Pyongyang that it is inadmissible to be ignorant of the international community’s requirements. From another side, it is essential not to play up to Pyongyang’s hawks – we cannot provoke an arms race and a full-scale military conflict on the peninsula. We hope that the Republic of Korea and its allies in the region will refrain from one-sided, coercive actions toward DPRK. Moreover, it is also important to keep a “window of possibilities” open for Pyongyang. Only planned, well-paced steps will result in real changes in inter-Korean relations. Russia intends to actively support peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. We are confident that resuming Six-Party Talks and settling the region’s problems via diplomacy are the only ways of improving the situation on the Korean peninsula, as well as a path to gradually remove sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against DPRK, including the right to peacefully launch rockets.

Russia is ready to contribute to the normalization of inter-Korean relations. To support this process as well as to create a mutually beneficial, wide-scale economic interaction on the Korean peninsula, we suggested earlier several large trilateral projects of cooperation among Russia, North and South Korea. This includes the connection of the Trans Korean and Trans Siberian railway, establishment of a united energy system, as well as construction of a gas pipeline from Russia running through the two Koreas. The realization of such projects may provide not only considerable economic benefits for both Koreas, but also improve inter-Korean relations.

Russia-ROK Relations

Nowadays there is practically no area in which Russia and the Republic Korea do not cooperate; they collaborate in areas such as the economy, international security, foreign trade, culture, science and technology, and energy. The large scale legal base for bilateral cooperation has been established: agreements were signed on trade, investment guarantees, fishery, prevention of double taxation, cooperation in military technology, peaceful use of atomic energy, cultural exchange, and more. Trade volume between the two states achieved a record in 2011, amounting to 25 billion dollars. Total amount of accumulated South Korean investments in the Russian economy is estimated at around two and a half billion dollars.

Conditions dictated by stiff requirements of the world market, as well as tasks of developing strategic partnership call for improvements in the effectiveness of trade, economic, scientific, and technological ties to provide mutual benefits and to conform to the high standards of bilateral political relations. On this note, we look toward to large-scale investment projects related to the development of Russian natural resources, following the framework of the “Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Russian Far East and the Baikal region for the period till 2025.” We expect the Russia-South Korea dialogue to provide grounds for large-scale export of Russian liquefied gas, oil and electric power to South Korea, cooperation in the car and shipbuilding industries, peaceful use of nuclear energy, outer space exploration, as well as cooperation in IT, communications, and finance. We expect cooperation to extend its reach in infrastructure construction of the 2012 Vladivostok APEC Summit and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Civic relations are also strengthening. An example may be taken from the joint forum, “Dialogue Russia - the Republic of Korea,” with Saint-Petersburg State University and Korea University. Russo-Korean cooperation in the spheres of culture and the arts are characterized by active interaction between our countries in training employees, regular art group and exhibition exchanges, and many other joint events. With satisfaction, I would like to note the steady growth of South Korean interest in Russia and the Russian language. The Russian language is studied in many secondary schools in Korea as a second foreign language, including schools in remote provinces. Almost all of the renowned universities in all Korean provinces have Russian departments. The total amount of students in your country, studying the Russian language, is about six thousand.

Nowadays, there are about 2000 students from South Korea, studying in various universities in Russia, and more than 300 Russian students studying the Korean language in South Korea. Our countries annually provide twenty-five grants for students from each country to cross-attend our universities. We are pleased that the youth of both countries have great interest for each other. The young generation should know each other to avoid bias, and to overcome negative stereotypes of the past.