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UPDATED: 16:42, September 24, 2004
South Korean president's visit to boost ties with Russia
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South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun Thursday ended a four-day official visit to Russia, which he said "will help consolidate the reliable partnership" between the two countries.

Economic issues topped the agenda of Roh's meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and he also sought Moscow's continuous support for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

During the trip, the first official visit by South Korean leaders to Russia in the past five years, Roh and Putin signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation in various fields, especially the trade and economy.

The two sides "agreed to begin setting up new consulates general on a mutual basis" due to "the growing demand for consulate services and for the purpose of developing mutual understanding, economic cooperation and exchanges between the two countries," the declaration said.

On the development of bilateral ties, Putin said, "I'd like to express satisfaction with how our relations have developed."

Moscow and Seoul also praised the growth of bilateral trade in the past few years, which reached more than 4 billion US dollars last year, and agreed to make efforts to expand mutual investmentsand economic cooperation.

Roh's visit laid the foundation for South Korea to secure oil, natural gas, uranium and other natural resources that are vital tosustained development of the economy of the nation, which lacks natural resources.

During Roh's stay here, Seoul and Moscow signed eight agreements on various economic cooperation projects worth 4 billion dollars.

Roh and Putin agreed to enhance cooperation in developing oil and natural gas wells in Siberia, constructing a pipeline for carrying Russian oil and natural gas to South Korea, linking the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Korean railways and transferring Russian space technology to South Korea.

Another major topic discussed during Roh's tour of Russia was the alleged nuclear program of the Democratic People's Republic ofKorea (DPRK).

While meeting with Roh, Putin said Russia supports South Korea's efforts to use the six-party talks as a means of seeking a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue.

The two presidents agreed to continue joint efforts for easing tension and strengthening peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Putin positively assessed South Korea's efforts for reconciliation and cooperation with the DPRK, while Roh praised Russia's constructive role in ensuring stability, security and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

The two sides confirmed their determination to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and stressed the importance of cooperation within the framework of the six-party talks.

South Korea established diplomatic ties with Russia in 1991 after the former Soviet Union collapsed, and Putin's visit to the country in February 2001 had laid a sound foundation for the establishment of closer economic ties.

Russia attaches great importance to the development of relations with South Korea, regarding the bilateral ties as a priority of its policy toward Asia.

Analysts noted that given the potential of mutual economic complementarity and cooperation between South Korea and Russia, chances are very high for bilateral trade and investment to rise.

Source: Xinhua

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