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THAAD in South Korea poses direct threat to Russian security, ambassador says

Russia’s ambassador to Seoul believes "the deployment of THAAD batteries in South Korea goes beyond the bounds of tasks of deterring a ‘North Korean’ threat - real or imaginary"

MOSCOW, February 7. /TASS/. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea continues Washington’s policy of creating a missile defense segment in Northeast Asia and thereby poses a threat to Russia, Russia’s ambassador to Seoul, Aleksandr Timonin, told TASS in an interview.

"The decision to deploy US THAAD missile systems in South Korean territory remains Russia’s major concern," he said. "We are being told these US missile systems are purely defensive and meant for warding off missile threats coming from North Korea."

Timonin said Russia had a wider vision of this issue.

"We regard this as further efforts by Washington to create a new regional segment of the United States’ global missile defense in Northeast Asia near the Russian border," he said. "This is a direct threat to the security of our country, because the main aim of the US global missile defense is to minimize the effectiveness of Russia’s missile potential."

Timonin said the Republic of Korea as a sovereign state was free to decide how to go about the business of ensuring its national security.

"Nevertheless, we believe that the deployment of THAAD batteries in South Korea obviously goes beyond the bounds of tasks of deterring a ‘North Korean’ threat - real or imaginary," he said. "This step may upset the strategic balance and harm our systematic efforts for enhancing relations of mutual trust, partnership and cooperation in the region of Northeast Asia."

Timonin recalled that Russia urged "collective search for a new, constructive strategy of exit from the critical situation in the Korean Peninsula and insisted on a peace and diplomatic settlement of the peninsula’s nuclear problem."

Contacts between Moscow and Seoul depend on situation in South Korea

This year’s schedule of high-level contacts between Moscow and Seoul is under consideration, it very much depends on the current political situation in South Korea, Timonin said in an interview with TASS.

While responding to a question when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could visit Seoul, he said that "we are content with intensive high-level political contacts between our countries." "We hope that bilateral political dialogue will remain active this year," the Russian ambassador added. According to him, "the schedule for contacts between the two foreign ministries in 2017 is currently under consideration. It will be agreed on depending on the political situation in South Korea."

The diplomat pointed out that in March 2016, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich had held talks with South Korea’s Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia. In April 2016, Moscow hosted a meeting of the parliament speakers of Eurasian countries, arranged for the first time upon the initiative of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) speaker and the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly. In May 2016, Chief of South Korea’s Constitutional Court Park Han-Chul visited Russia to take part in the Fourth St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

"The foreign ministers of Russia and South Korea met three times last year: on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February, during a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia held in Beijing in April, and in June, when the South Korean top diplomat visited Russia," Timonin added.

Moscow offers Seoul cooperation in Siberia, Far East

Implementation of large-scale investment projects in Siberia and the Far East with participation of Korean business will make bilateral economic ties more active, Timonin said.

"From our point of view, implementation of large-scale joint investment projects in regions of Siberia and the Far East and creation of new production facilities with proactive use of advantages for foreign business within the framework of advance development territories (ADT) and Vladivostok Free Port can promote expansion of bilateral economic ties," the ambassador said.

Companies from South Korea may take part in setup of new high-technology production facilities in Russia’s Far East, Timonin said. "More active efforts on creation of investment and finance platforms are undertaken for solution of this task," the ambassador said.

A range of important agreements was already reached at the regional level in September 2016 on sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, he added.