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Russian foreign minister to have talks with North Korean leader’s special envoy

November 20, 2014, 2:04 UTC+3 MOSCOW
This is a third visit by a top-ranking North Korean official to Moscow over this year
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© Anton Novoderzkin/TASS

MOSCOW, November 20. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday will have talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s special envoy, a high-ranking member of the ruling Workers' Party, Choe Ryong Hae.

Choe, a member of the Politburo Presidium and Secretariat of the Workers’ Party of Korea, arrived on a seven-day visit to Russia on Monday, November 17. On Tuesday, he was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He handed over to the Russian leader a personal message from Kim Jong Un.

This is a third visit by a top-ranking North Korean official to Moscow over this year. In February, President of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium Kim Yong Nam visited Moscow and in October, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong paid a visit to Russia after a four-year break.

Receiving credentials from North Korea’s new Ambassador to Russia Kim Hyung-joon on Wednesday, Putin stressed that closer political and trade-economic cooperation between Russia and North Korea.

“The further deepening of political ties and trade-economic co-operation undoubtedly serves the interests of the peoples in both countries and ensuring regional security and stability,” said the Russian president.

Earlier, a source in the Russia foreign ministry told TASS that the North Korean envoy would discuss a traditional range of topics. “The agenda has not been agreed in detail, but there is a traditional range of topics, such as bilateral relations, international problems, naturally, with a focus on nuclear-related topics.”

Russian-North Korean relations, in particular, their trading and economic segment, acquired a new dimension over the past few months. Russia has written off North Korea’s debt and there are plans for building up bilateral trade to a level of one billion U.S. dollars by the year 2020. This figure may look overstated at first sight, but the expected value of Russian companies’ projects in North Korea is several-fold greater. The Pobeda (Victory) project for the upgrade of North Korean railways by a group of investors from Russia in exchange for access to that country’s natural resources is estimated at 25 billion U.S. dollars. Also on the agenda are specific joint plans for projects in energy and agriculture.

Also, two parties have begun mutual settlements in the Russian rouble. A Business Council will be established within the framework of the inter-government commission.

Earlier, Russia’s Minister for the Development of Russia’s Far Eastern Regions Alexander Galushka, who is co-chairman of the Russian-North Korea intergovernmental commission, told TASS it was vitally important “to fill the development of the Korean Peninsula with economically efficient and mutually beneficial projects” and “discuss practical matters.”

“The more economy of common sense we put in this cooperation the better it will be for the development of the Korean Peninsula, bearing in mind its importance in international relations,” he said.

It looks like a breakthrough is possible in the humanitarian sphere. Thus, in 2014, employees of Russian companies operating in North Korea for the first time were granted multiple visas. Now a visa-free travel regime is on the agenda. “The side have agreed it to be expedient. We will work on it but it will not happen overnight,” Galushka said.

However, as the Russian foreign ministry said, the unsettled nuclear problem of North Korea remains a brake on cooperation.

The outlook for a resumption of six-party talks on this theme is an acute issue requiring a frank discussion, Moscow believes.

The Russia side “is strictly observing relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and demands all other participants in the process of Korean settlement, including North Korea, should keep to the restrictions and bans imposed by these resolutions.

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