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Putin can help

Aug 23,2017
President Moon Jae-in embarks on a trip to Vladivostok, the capital city of Primorsky Krai, or the maritime province in Russia’s Far East, from Sept. 6 -7 to attend the Eastern Economic Forum. Moon will make a keynote speech at the forum and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit. As it is Moon’s second meeting with Putin after one at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, we hope it will be a comfortable meeting between the two leaders.

Moon’s visit to Vladivostok carries great significance, because it offers an opportunity to help ease heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. If Moon is able to take advantage of the meeting to address the increasing North Korean nuclear threat, he may be able to help South Korea find a way out of its current impasse. Amid heated exchanges of threats, North Korea and the United States are teetering on the brink of war on the peninsula. However, China still appears to be reluctant to put maximum pressure on North Korea, citing its blood ties with its ally, while engaging in methodical trade retaliations against South Korea for its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield, which is aimed at safeguarding South Korea from North Korean missile attacks.

Under such circumstances, Russia could serve as a strategic lever. As members of the Peace Odyssey — organized by the JoongAng Ilbo last year to find ways to achieve peace on the peninsula together with experts from various fields — saw in their visit to Far Eastern Federal University, their Russian counterparts did not show any bias toward South and North Korea. They urged South Korea to have dialogue with North Korea as soon as possible rather than confront each other. Russians maintain such a position based on their firm belief that their economic relations with South Korea can improve only when the Korean Peninsula is stabilized.

Russia has been sending an invitation to foreign capital to help develop its Far East, an underdeveloped region with a very small population. Despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal of large-scale investment in the Far East to get its northern territories back, no substantial progress has been made due to Russia’s resentment of Japan’s offer.

Moon must urge Russia to pressure Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table after promising to Moscow full-fledged economic cooperation. At the same time, South Korea must prepare for the arrival of the Far East era of Russia by aggressively participating in the development of its maritime province. We hope Moon finds a breakthrough that can help reduce the heightened tension on the peninsula through a summit with Putin.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 23, Page 30