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Park to push ‘Eurasia Initiative,’ discuss North Korea with Putin

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Published : 2013-11-11 19:56
Updated : 2014-02-12 09:04

President Park Geun-hye will hold summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday during which they will share extensive views on regional security and lay out the basis for the “Eurasia Initiative.”

Putin is set to arrive in Seoul early Wednesday for a one-day stop after his trip to Vietnam. This will be his second meeting with Park after their bilateral talks in St. Petersburg in September on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Among the agenda items are fortifying economic cooperation, expanding personnel exchanges, and cooperating on the North Korean nuclear problem and regional peace.

“It will be an occasion to set the foundation for the Eurasia Initiative proposed by President Park,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said. Park had proposed last month the initiative calling for the linking of energy and logistics infrastructure across the continent.

As part of the measures, Park suggested establishing a “Silk Road Express” that would connect rail and road networks from Korea’s Busan to Europe, along with new sea routes utilizing the Arctic Sea. Park has also shown keen interest in reconnecting Korea’s rail network to Russia’s Trans-Siberian railway for this by overcoming hurdles posed by unstable inter-Korean relations.

Attention is on the “Najin-Hasan project” of North Korea and Russia that was established in 2008. The plan seeks to modernize the 54-kilometer-long Najin-Hasan railway.

The renovation of the railway has been completed since September, while the construction of a modern cargo terminal at one of Najin’s ports is slated to be finished by the end of this year.

Sources said ways for Korean companies to participate in the project will be one of the issues to be discussed during Putin’s visit. Seoul’s participation has been sought since the project commenced five years ago but little progress was made due to frozen inter-Korean ties. Seoul’s so-called May 24 measures in the wake of the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan warship brought to a halt all economic cooperation.

They said South Korean companies would be joining the project by taking over part of the stake in the project held by Russia.

Park and Putin are also expected to discuss ways to build a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea through North Korea for natural gas.

Financially, the two countries’ government-run banks are slated to establish a joint investment fund to activate bilateral investment. Ways for Russia to reimburse portions of loans provided by South Korea in the 1990s with defense equipment are also to be discussed, the sources said.

It remains to be seen whether Park will successfully earn Moscow’s support in her trust-building process and the Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative during the summit talks.

Park is set to explain her North Korea policies and emphasize North Korea’s denuclearization and openness as the crucial priority for stabilizing the region, according to the officials.

For wider personnel exchanges, the leaders are expected to oversee the signing of a treaty for visa exemption for Koreans visiting Russia and vice versa for 60 days or less. The measure is to go in effect from next year.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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