+ A

Moon prepares for Putin summit

Moscow is already calling for sanctions relief for North Korea
June 18,2018
President Moon Jae-in cleared his official schedule on Sunday, the first weekend since local elections that gave his administration a strong mandate, presumably to concentrate on an upcoming state visit to Russia.

With Moon refraining from public activities, the Blue House did not issue any official statements over the weekend. Moon’s visit to Russia, which begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday, comes at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is the first state visit by a Korean president in 19 years. The last state visit to Russia was by Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 1999.

A state visit is the highest level offered to visiting foreign leaders and involves more pomp and protocol. Lesser forms are official visits, working visits and private visits.

Moon’s summit with Putin is expected to center on affirming the two countries’ commitment to joint economic development making use of railroad and roads that have been disconnected due to the bifurcation of the Korean Peninsula.

For such joint economic projects to go forward, multinational economic sanctions barring foreign investments in the North must be lifted, a prospect that has been rising since the North Korea-U.S. summit last week in Singapore at which Pyongyang agreed to some kind of “complete denuclearization.”

According to the United States, the withdrawal of sanctions that have been cutting off the cash flow to the regime requires the North’s implementation of the denuclearization promise it made in the joint Kim-Trump statement, the product of the June 12 Singapore Summit.

But Moscow on Friday called for the withdrawal of unilateral sanctions that individual states have adopted against the North in conjunction with or even beyond UN sanctions, calling such sanctions “negative” in light of the changing diplomatic dynamics in the region.

“As far as the unilateral sanctions against North Korea are concerned, those which were introduced by a number of countries in bypassing of the UN Security Council and even in addition to its sanctions, our attitude is well known. It is negative,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“We are for the fastest cancellation of all such unilateral restrictions, in particular, the so-called secondary, exterritorial sanctions,” she continued.

One of the inter-Korean projects the Moon government is eyeing is reconnecting railroads along the inter-Korean border under the Moon administration’s so-called New Northern Policy.

Once reconnected, the railroads could transport goods and personnel well beyond North Korea, putting an end to South Korea’s geographical isolation as a virtual island.

Expectation for such an undertaking gained another boost earlier this month when South Korea gained long-awaited membership in the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD), of which North Korea is a founding member. Seoul’s full OSJD membership could pave the way for the country to link its railroads to mainland Asia and as far as the continent of Europe.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]