SEOUL/MOSCOW • Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed yesterday to support "efforts to establish complete denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula" following the US-North Korea summit held in Singapore last week.
A joint statement signed by the two leaders during a state visit by Mr Moon to Russia was released by South Korea's presidential Blue House.
Mr Moon arrived in Russia on Thursday, the first official visit by a South Korean president since 1999.
The Russian and South Korean leaders agreed that last week's historic summit in Singapore between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would contribute to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. They agreed to "continue joint efforts to establish complete denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula and secure permanent peace and stability on the peninsula and (in)North-east Asia".
"I believe South Korea and Russia are key cooperation partners on the Korean peninsula and the Eurasian continent and therefore place great importance on strategic cooperation with Russia as an important part of our government's foreign and security policies," Mr Moon told Mr Putin at the start of their private talks at the Kremlin, according to pool reports released by the Blue House.
Both Moscow and Seoul are hoping that reduced tensions with Pyongyang will open up opportunities for economic and infrastructure projects that would directly link South Korea with Russia through North Korea.
I believe South Korea and Russia are key cooperation partners on the Korean peninsula and the Eurasian continent and therefore place great importance on strategic cooperation with Russia as an important part of our government's foreign and security policies. ''
SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN, speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Those plans are currently blocked by international sanctions on North Korea, which international leaders have said will not be lifted until North Korea makes significant moves to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
A number of countries, including South Korea and Russia, have nevertheless begun looking for ways to engage with North Korea economically should sanctions be lifted.
Mr Putin and Mr Moon agreed to joint research in the fields of electricity, gas and railways in order to advance cooperative projects between North Korea, Russia and South Korea.
A memorandum of understanding was signed yesterday on joint efforts to launch free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, along with 11 other agreements that call for bilateral cooperation and exchange in various areas, including information and communication technology, railways and natural gas.
Their joint statement said "large-scale infrastructure projects will contribute to North-east Asia's peace and prosperity".
Railway projects were an area of common interest, the statement said, noting the development of a railway link between the Russian eastern border town of Khasan and the North Korean port of Rajin.
Mr Putin and Mr Moon also agreed to cooperate on joint research to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Korean Railway.
They also agreed to work to launch negotiations for the first FTA between their countries.
"I hope a comprehensive and mutually beneficial FTA also covering goods will be signed in the near future," Mr Moon told a business forum in Moscow yesterday.
"I think South Korea-Russia FTA will be a starting point" for achieving the goal of reaching US$30 billion (S$40.7 billion) in trade and one million in the number of visitors between South Korea and Russia by 2020, said Mr Moon.
The South Korean President invited Mr Putin to South Korea at a convenient time, which Mr Putin accepted, the statement said.
The Russian President has officially invited Mr Moon to take part in the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September to further discuss ways to increase the countries' bilateral cooperation, Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters.
Mr Moon took part in the annual regional forum last year, unveiling his New Northern Policy that seeks to greatly improve South Korea's ties and economic cooperation with Russia and other Asian countries.
If he takes part this year, it may set him up for a third meeting with North Korean leader Kim, who has already been invited to the annual forum, according to earlier reports.