Lavrov closes the Korean triangle | Latest news The Moscow Post
01 June 2023

Lavrov "closes" the Korean "triangle"

After Sergey Lavrov's visit to South Korea, observers began to discuss that Russia's left the "States" "out of business" again.

The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister, who was on a visit to the Republic of Korea on March 23-25, has ended. An experienced Russian negotiator was last in this country, in April 2009. This visit is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Among the goals of the visit is to organize another summit meeting, promote economic cooperation and discuss the production of the Sputnik V vaccine in South Korea.

In September 2017, in Vladivostok, President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in offered Vladimir Putin to build "nine bridges of cooperation", including projects in shipbuilding, port development, the oil and gas industry, electricity, agriculture and fishing, and to increase investment in the Russian Far East.

On the day of arrival on March 23, the Russian Minister took part in the ceremony of the Year of Mutual Exchanges between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea, which is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. In his speech at the ceremony, Sergey Lavrov stressed that the two countries have established a stable political dialogue, dynamically advancing cooperation in trade, economic, investment, humanitarian relations and other areas.

In 2020, Russia's trade turnover with South Korea amounted to $19.6 billion and showed a decrease of 19.5 compared to 2019. Russia's exports amounted to $12.4 billion and decreased by 23.9% compared to 2019. Imports from South Korea amounted $7.5 billion, decreasing by 10.5% from 2019.

Since 2014, there is a visa-free regime for tourist and business trips. In January 2013, with the long-term support of the M. V. Khrunichev Centre, the KSLV-1 launch vehicle launched the STSAT-2C satellite into orbit.

Destroying hostile blocks

The significance of Sergey Lavrov's visit is much broader than the issues of trade and economic relations. The Korean Peninsula is included in the list of the most "hot spots", remains a crossroads of interests of China, the United States, Japan and Russia. It is no coincidence that some Japanese commentators perceived this visit as an attempt of Russia's "invasion" in relations between the United States and South Korea. It’s a common knowledge that there are many long-standing problems in these relations. Recently, another "point of disagreement" was added: Seoul reacted coldly to the invitation to participate in the Indo-Pacific Partnership Program, which has an anti-Chinese orientation.

Sergey Lavrov, in an interview with South Korean media, said that "a closer look at the events held within the framework of the Indo-Pacific strategy will show that they are based on bloc mentality, that is, the establishment of blocs that are not designed to promote a positive process but are spearheaded against certain states. The proclaimed goals include the containment of some states, while other countries are left outside the boundaries of such initiatives".

South Korea cannot ignore the high degree of trade and economic interdependence with China, the decisive influence of Beijing on the economic situation of the DPRK, the political authority and influence of Chinese leaders.

Washington, while maintaining long-standing military and political ties with both Japan and Korea, is not yet able to "close the third side" of this triangle, and demands that Seoul change its approaches to Japan. Another requirement is to increase expenses on military bases, the country is third after Germany and Japan in terms of expenses. The United States is South Korea's main political partner and security ally. North Korea, with its missile capabilities and ambition to nuclear status, is strengthening this alliance de facto. On the other hand, the combined capabilities of the United States and South Korea, their armed forces and joint maneuvers inevitably put Pyongyang in front of the need to look for ways to strengthen its own security.

The ruling elite of the United States, former Democratic Presidents and Secretaries of the state are known for their demonstrative interest in the DPRK. It began with a trip in 1994 by former President Jimmy Carter, when he met with Kim Il Sung. The focus of the mission then was the North Korean nuclear program. In October 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang. In 2009, retired President Bill Clinton went to the DPRK. But everyone was surpassed by Donald Trump, who personally met with the North Korean leader three times: in Singapore (2018), in Hanoi (2019), on the border of the two countries in the demilitarized zone (2020). The leaders exchanged letters, and the military maneuvers were cancelled in order to improve the situation for negotiations.

Playing with "senile muscles"

It is noteworthy that Biden's foreign policy speech did not mention North Korea. The White House, as it was stated, is reviewing relations with Pyongyang that were established under President Trump, will develop new approaches taking into account the views of South Korea and Japan, assessments of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. It cannot be ruled out that Biden will choose a course of forceful pressure based on his new tough approaches to China. But the bottom line is that each new president has to deal with a "more complex" North Korea, gradually improving the technology of missile and nuclear weapons.

China and Russia may be more inventive in their policy towards the two Korean states in a changed situation. Under the administration of Trump, relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have changed significantly for the better. Summits of the leaders of the North and South are being held, declarations are being adopted and joint measures are being taken to reduce tension.

Seoul and Pyongyang agree that the Korean nation should be united, the peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons, and problems should be solved exclusively through diplomacy, without the use of force. In recent years, steps have been taken to establish trilateral cooperation with the participation of Russia, the Republic of Korea and the DPRK. The plans for the future include the construction of a railway from the South of the Korean Peninsula to the North, with access to the Trans-Siberian Railway, the laying of a gas pipeline and the construction of an electric transmission line. These promising projects that can return the "island" South Korea to the Eurasian space are objectively beneficial to Russia and China, and can increase their influence in the region and at the global level.

Lavrov has already stated that Russia is making efforts to maintain a stable situation on the peninsula, "solving the problems of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Who knows, probably, only Moscow and Beijing can solve these problems, without the participation of hostile external forces.

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