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Press review: Putin hosts Kim, gets under US’ skin and EEF-23 belies 'isolate Russia' idea

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, September 14th
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Mikhail Metzel/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

MOSCOW, September 14. /TASS/. Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un pledge to strengthen bilateral cooperative ties; Russia's Eastern Economic Forum wraps up after attracting strong interest from the Southeast Asian business community; and Joe Biden is now facing a Congressional impeachment inquiry. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: Putin, Kim agree to bolster bilateral cooperation, giving Washington heartburn

Russia is in compliance with UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea, but there is potential for military cooperation between the neighboring countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far Eastern Amur Region. This marked the leaders’ first meeting in four years and Kim’s second visit to Russia. Other key issues on the agenda included economic, political and cultural cooperation, Izvestia writes.

The negotiations lasted nearly four hours. During the starting phase of the talks open to the press, which lasted just nine minutes, the leaders outlined the main issues on the agenda. According to Kim, expanding relations with Moscow is Pyongyang’s top priority, particularly in the political sphere. The leaders then continued their dialogue behind closed doors.

The North Korean leader stated that Moscow can rely on Pyongyang’s political support in the current challenging geopolitical environment. At the same time, however, although the two countries’ defense ministers were participating in the negotiations, there was no open discussion of military-technical cooperation.

According to Kazbek Taisaev, coordinator of the Russian State Duma’s Friendship Group with the North Korean parliament, Kim’s visit will help facilitate the implementation of many practical aspects of bilateral economic cooperation between the countries.

"We sincerely hope so. North Korea was closed during the pandemic, but now we have a large number of plans in terms of the economy, for example along the lines of developing cooperative industrial partnerships, as well as agricultural and cultural exchanges," he told Izvestia.

Victoria Samsonova, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of China and Modern Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, expressed a similar view. Economic, scientific and technological cooperation has long been a priority for Russia and North Korea, she said. She noted that the two countries also need to discuss expanding trade, which has visibly slowed since the COVID-19 pandemic and is complicated by "the inhumane sanctions regime that has banned almost all of North Korea’s priority exports [to markets] abroad."


Izvestia: EEF-2023 highlights Moscow’s eastward pivot, impossibility of isolating Russia

The 8th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) took place in Vladivostok on September 10-13. This year, the international aspects of the EEF were at the forefront of the annual event, with the Southeast Asian business community, in particular, expressing an active interest in Russian projects and a readiness not only to talk but also to take concrete action, Izvestia writes. According to the newspaper, the forum’s main economic goal was to establish contacts with East Asian partners with a focus on individual projects.

"The EEF has mastered its role as an international platform: Investors from Southeast Asia included it in their business calendars, and the number of participants from this region at the forum has increased significantly," Ekaterina Movsesyan, general director of the CROS communications agency, told Izvestia.

"The main issue is to reach agreements on cooperation, technological interaction and the creation of joint ventures on the territory of our country. One thing is certain: The Far East should become the primary location for potential developments," Georgy Ostapkovich, director of the Center for Market Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), noted. He emphasized that it is currently difficult to quantify the number and value of contracts signed at the event. Analysts had predicted that the number of contracts inked at EEF-2023 would be the same as last year, which came in at around 3.2 trln rubles ($33.08 bln).

According to Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian parliament) Committee on Foreign Affairs, the most important political result of the forum was how effectively and definitively it disproved the idea that Russia could be isolated.

Dmitry Belik, member of the State Duma (lower house of the Russian parliament) Committee on International Affairs, told Izvestia that the growth trend in investments shows that interest is not waning among Russia’s foreign partners in the multiple opportunities available in the Russian Far East.The main political message of the EEF, according to him, is that Russia is successfully charting an independent course.


Vedomosti: Impeachment probe into Biden unlikely to yield results, but may hobble campaign

US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Republican of California) has called for the launch of an impeachment inquiry into allegations of corruption against President Joe Biden, a Democrat. While the chances are extremely slim that the impeachment process will culminate in the incumbent president’s removal from office, the process itself will become a cornerstone of the opposition Republican Party’s campaign to discredit the sitting administration, Vedomosti writes. According to McCarthy, Biden lied to the American people by claiming he was unaware of his family members’ international business dealings.

Rumors alleging that members of Biden’s family, particularly his son Hunter Biden, have abused their close relationship with the president for personal gain through influence peddling have been circulating in the media for several years already. Wide press coverage has been given to the activities of Hunter Biden in Ukraine during the administration of President Barack Obama (2009-2017), in which Joe Biden served as vice president. Specifically, Hunter Biden joined the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas production company, in 2014. It has been widely alleged that, in an effort to protect his son, then-Vice President Joe Biden pressured Kiev in 2016 to fire Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who had opened a criminal investigation into Burisma’s management. President Biden has repeatedly denied any personal involvement in the Burisma affair, consistently claiming that he and his son never discussed the latter’s business dealings.

The Republicans’ main goal is not necessarily to get rid of Biden, but rather to gain better access to potentially damaging information about him, according to Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive and European Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University). McCarthy and his allies, according to the expert, are acting in accordance with a long-term strategy aimed at weakening Biden politically as much as possible in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. "The Democrats always try to portray Trump as the most toxic candidate, so the Republicans want to use a similar approach in relation to Biden," he told Vedomosti. In addition, the expert noted that the situation could complicate the process of passing the US federal budget in Congress. This, in turn, could lead to greater political tension and, potentially, another shutdown of the US federal government.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Beijing sees peaceful reunification with Taiwan, as US rattles sabers

US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall claimed a Chinese attack on Taiwan is very plausible, given that China is about to commission a third aircraft carrier and is also vying for space supremacy. Beijing, on the other hand, announced an entirely peaceful proposal for reunification with the island, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to the plan, the mainland province of Fujian would become a paradise for tourists, students and businessmen from Taiwan.

Kendall, according to the Washington publication The Hill, warned that the Chinese are building up their military forces in preparation for a possible battle with the US and, thus, the US needs to strengthen its military forces. But while the Pentagon and Western media debate the potential for armed conflict, Beijing has proposed a new plan to turn Fujian, the province closest to the island, into an integration zone and remove social barriers to Taiwanese citizens moving there. The plan calls for Fujian to become an example of shared development with the island in all areas and to promote peaceful reunification. According to the plan presented by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and the government, the focus will be on personal contacts, as well as education and business.

Andrey Karneev, head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that he believes China is unlikely to escalate the situation. "The Americans are more likely to escalate the situation than to provide a real analysis of it. Taiwan’s defense minister recently said that an attack is unlikely in the next ten years," he said.


Vedomosti: Gazprom redirects LNG shipments to China from its Leningrad plant

Gazprom has begun supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China from its medium-tonnage plant in the Leningrad Region near the Portovaya compressor station, Vedomosti writes, citing data from analytical company Kpler. In mid-August, a gas tanker loaded with LNG left for China via the Northern Sea Route and will arrive in one of China’s ports in late September. According to analysts interviewed by Vedomosti, LNG supplies from Portovaya LNG to China could now be more profitable than supplies to Europe.

The LNG production, storage and shipping complex near the Portovaya compressor station, with a design capacity of 1.5 mln tons per year, was commissioned in September 2022. China's demand for Russian LNG is growing. According to the General Administration of Customs of China, LNG shipments from Russia to China increased by 43.9% to 6.5 mln tons in 2022. In the first seven months of this year, shipments increased by 62.8% year on year to 4.5 mln tons.

According to BCS World of Investment Senior Analyst Ronald Smith, China is likely to offer a higher price than European buyers. According to the expert, LNG imports to the EU are now declining due to relatively low seasonal demand and nearly full underground gas storage (UGS) facilities.

Finam Financial Group Analyst Sergey Kaufman also noted that a decline in demand for LNG in Europe is another likely explanation for the redirection of supplies. The expert noted that, in the future, the Chinese market could become important for Novatek's Arctic LNG-2, Murmansky LNG and Obsky LNG projects, as well as the YATEK Yakutia LNG project.

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