MOSCOW, March 19, 23:14 /ITAR-TASS/. Committee of the State Duma for the budget and taxes has issued a recommendation to the MPs to ratify an agreement between the Russian government and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on settling the DPRK’s debt to Russia on the Soviet-era loans issued to that country.
The document that was submitted for ratification by the Russian government features the agreements reached at the negotiations that lasted almost twenty years and took account of the special features of financial, political and economic relations between Russia and North Korea.
Debt settlement embraces all the categories of reciprocal financial claims and obligations of the former USSR and the DPRK, with the precise parameters registered on the date when the agreement is signed.
Overall amount of the DPRK’s financial obligations to Russia stood at an equivalent of $ 10.96 billion as of September 17, 2012.
“This amount is rather conventional in many ways - not only because of the exchange rate but also due to the interest rates accumulated over a huge period or, in other words, a non-return of the loans because many of them were issued in the 1980’s,” Sergei Storchak, a deputy minister of finance said at the session.
“We applied a standard pattern in which we write off 90% of the debts amount and 10% is left over,” he said. “We agreed to utilize this 10% for financing the joint projects implemented on the North Korean territory.”
There projects are related to the energy sector, healthcare, and the country’s foodstuff security.
“Frankly speaking, we hope we’ll be able to attain agreement in the course of future joint work on allotting plots of land for construction of a gas pipeline on the DPRK territory,” Storchak said adding that Russia’s major producer and exporter of natural gas, OAO Gazprom, continues eyeing a possible integration in the Korean market of gas.
For this purpose, it will need some land acquisitions and “a part of the debt can be utilized for this purpose,” Storchak said.
Russian government officials say settlement of debts on the loans issued by the former USSR with the observance of conditions coordinated with Pyongyang pursues three objectives.
In the first place, it removes the problem of North Korea’s outstanding debt to the Russian Federation that was an irritating factor for bilateral relations for quite some time.
Secondly, the agreements that have been reached enable Russia to exert noticeable influence on the DPRK’s social and economic development through projects in healthcare, education, and the energy sector, since Russia will have a say in the decisions on their financing.
Thirdly, owing to the presence of big enough debt claims, Russia will have an opportunity to take part in multilateral talks on settling the North Korean debts in the format of the Paris Club of Sovereign Debtors and to influence the terms of debt repayments in Pyongyang’s interests.