Energy, nuclear issues to top agenda of Seoul-Moscow summit

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyunon Sunday left here for a belated visit to Kazakhstan and Russia as part of his itinerary to neighboring countries which had already taken him to Japan and China.

After a two-day state visit to Kazakhstan, Roh will fly to Moscow for his first ever official visit to Russia from Sept. 20 to Sept. 23.

The trip, which had originally been planned for early this year, was postponed because Roh was briefly suspended from office after being impeached by the then opposition-controlled parliament.

Economic issues are expected to feature high on the agenda for Roh's meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, scheduled for next Tuesday.

Roh also planned to seek Moscow's continued support for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

"This will be a good opportunity for the two countries to move toward a 'substantial cooperative relationship,'" Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said.

The summit is expected to generate a major boost for several big economic projects that the two countries have been discussing for years, including a plan to develop Siberian natural gas and bring it through pipelines to South Korea.

With the world prices of crude oil skyrocketing, efforts and competition for securing energy among crude oil consumers have been intensified. South Korea imports all the oil it needs from oil-rich countries.

Another major projects under consideration is to link the Inter-Korean Railways with the Trans Siberian Railway (TSR), which will provide South Korea with a land transportation route to Europe.

The 9,288-kilometer Trans-Siberian railway, which connects Vladivostok with Moscow, is the world's longest single railway system.

When the 3-billion-US-dollar project completed, it will ensure rapid transport of freight from Europe to South Korea's southern ports, such as Busan and Gwangyang, via Moscow, Siberia, Kazakhstan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

As part of the agreements made during the inter-Korean summit in 2000, South Korea and the DPRK have started building two sets of railways and parallel roads across their heavily fortified border. One set of transport links, if completed, will lead to the TSR.

The two leaders are also expected to sign an agreement on space technology.

"It will open up wide cooperation in the space area, including the use of Russian technologies and equipment in construction of the South Korean space center, the creation of South Korean satellite launchers and also the training of South Korean cosmonauts," Russian Ambassador to Seoul Teymura Ramishvili said in a recent interview with local media.

"Given the potential on mutual economic complementarity and cooperation between South Korea and Russia, chances are very high for bilateral trade and investment to rise," said an analyst.

The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is expected to be another major topic during the summit.

"President Roh will seek Russia's constructive role in resolving the nuclear issue peacefully," said Chung Woo-sung, the presidential adviser on foreign affairs.

South Korea and Russia are participants in the six-party talks aimed to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, which also involve China, the United States, DPRK and Japan.

Russia supports South Korea's proposal to give energy and other aid to the DPRK if Pyongyang abandons its nuclear program.

The six-party talks are now undergoing a difficult time. No exact date has been set for a new round of talks although the parties concerned have agreed in the third round to hold the talks before September.

Roh's visit to Russia also marks the 140th anniversary of the first Korean emigration to Russia's Far East.

South Korea established diplomatic ties with Russia in 1990 after the former Soviet Union collapsed.

Source: Xinhua



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