Transcript of Remarks by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan, Seoul, April 24, 2009
The talks have marked an important stage in carrying out the agreement to elevate Russian-Korean relations to the level of a strategic partnership which the presidents of our countries reached in Moscow in September 2008. This policy rests on a very solid material base: last year, our commercial and economic relations developed rapidly, trade increased 25 percent and reached practically 20 billion dollars. This is a very serious figure.
We have many large, promising projects including in the energy sphere and in the sphere of transport infrastructure; I also mean possible Russian gas provision and projects related to reconnecting the Trans-Korean Railway and linking it to the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Of course, these plans depend largely on conditions in Northeast Asia as a whole. We are certainly disturbed by the situation now obtaining in the wake of the well-known events to which the UN Security Council gave an assessment in its Presidential Statement. That was a consensus assessment and Russia shares it. The situation is undoubtedly complicated, but not hopeless. Now the chief thing for all, I stress, for all parties is not to succumb to emotions and not to make any abrupt motions that can only aggravate the state of affairs.
We talked about it in Pyongyang yesterday and today and felt our arguments had been heard. Hopefully all other Six-Party participants will show the same attitude. We’re convinced it’s necessary to see the chief goal, which is to create conditions for resuming the Six-Party Talks from where they stopped. And in so doing it’s important to retain the positive experience accumulated since the September 2005 agreement and consider the mistakes that have occurred over this period.
I mean, first of all, the need for all six states to fulfill the obligations contained in the 2005 agreement and not avoid fulfilling them under pretexts that have nothing to do with the task of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Actions that will be directed at creating conditions for resuming talks and steps for fulfilling all obligations assumed are today an absolute priority. I hope no one will be trying to artificially rock the situation, and even less so, use it as a pretext for promoting an arms race in the region, forming military-political blocs, speeding up the creation of missile defense sites, renouncing constitutional provisions and declaring the need to possess nuclear-missile potential. We, regrettably, hear such statements from a neighboring country, and this greatly disturbs us.
In the framework of the Six-Party process, there was established a Working Group on a Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism led by Russia. Since its establishment we have advanced despite considerable difficulties. The meeting of the group held in Moscow in February 2009 has shown that there is a real chance of agreeing on the principles of a mechanism which would guarantee the security of all states in the region and not allow preservation of nuclear weapons here. If we lose the understanding reached, if we fail to bring it to legal accords, then we will make a big mistake.
We talked utterly frankly about all this in Pyongyang yesterday and today; we reaffirmed our stance in favor of the resolution of these issues and return of the DPRK to the NPT regime. We hope that our North Korean partners have heard us. We also hope that all other Six-Party participants will draw conclusions from the events that occurred to a significant degree because not each of us had been fulfilling our obligations.
I am grateful to my counterpart, Minister Yu Myung-hwan, for the opportunity to hold talks, compare our assessments of the situation and try to work out steps which will help to normalize it.
Question: Did you meet with Mr. Kim Jong-il?
Sergey Lavrov: As to the program of our stay in Pyongyang, we never ask the receiving side, wherever we travel, for particular meetings. Whatever meetings the receiving side offers us are part of the program. Meetings with the DPRK leader were not envisioned in the program of my stay in Pyongyang this time.
Question: Is the North Korean side ready to return to the negotiating table?
Sergey Lavrov: The DPRK is not ready to return to the Six-Party Talks negotiating table right now. It is our common task to create conditions when a resumption of the talks will become possible. We vigorously explained to our DPRK colleagues how this could be achieved. But let us not forget that there is also the other question: Are the other Six-Party participants ready for resumption by pledging to fully comply with the obligations and terms agreed upon? These terms are fixed in the document approved by all six countries on September 19, 2005. After the talks in Pyongyang I carried the impression that the North Korean side considers this document to be fair and is ready to reaffirm its commitment to the principles that are set forth in it. But the question arises whether all other parties are ready not merely to reaffirm this document, but also to fulfill the obligations assumed under it. This question is not for Russia.
I hope that when our partners ponder this question they will proceed on the assumption that the task of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and the task of preventing a violation of the nuclear nonproliferation regime are significantly more important than any, even though most sensitive emotional bilateral concerns.
Question: Was the project for the construction of a gas pipeline through North Korean territory discussed in the course of your talks in the DPRK?
Sergey Lavrov: We touched on this question, because it is important for the prospects of the region, for the Republic of Korea. I think it will be understandable to all if I say that in the present-day conditions any project (be it a gas or railway one) which presupposes participation of the two Koreas and the Russian Federation can hardly be transferred onto a practical plane. Therefore from the viewpoint of the economic development prospects of the entire region it is extremely important for us, so to speak, to calm down the political situation and find a way to resume the Six-Party Talks.
Undoubtedly, irrespective of third factors there is always the possibility for Moscow and Seoul to consider projects for the construction of LNG facilities somewhere in Russia’s Maritime Territory. This is a question for discussion by our energy companies and the relevant ministries.
Question: In relation to the concern over the North Korean rocket launch was the question of providing the DPRK with a satellite launch facility in Russia touched on in your talks in Pyongyang? If yes, then on what basis can this be done?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia cooperates with many countries in peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches by our carrier rockets. Such cooperation also occurs with the Republic of Korea. We are ready for analogous projects to be developed between Russia and the DPRK as well. We outlined this possibility during the talks. I hope this proposal will be studied.
Question: It is known that South Korea is planning to launch a satellite in July. What are the prospects for developing space cooperation between Russia and South Korea?
Sergey Lavrov (in addition to the response of ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan): I will confirm everything my counterpart has said. We are interested in building up our cooperation with the Republic of Korea in the economy as a whole, especially in high technology branches, including the development of outer space. This is a good promising area. There are concrete mutually advantageous projects there.
Question (addressed to ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan): The Republic of Korea’s MFA had asked the Russian side to learn about the condition of the South Korean citizen detained in the DPRK and his further fate. Was this question touched on during today’s talks?
Sergey Lavrov (in addition to the response of ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan): I can say that we want the question of this man’s fate to be decided as soon as possible.
I would not confuse either this question or any other question of a humanitarian or other nature concerning bilateral relations and having nothing to do with the Six-Party Talks agreement with efforts that should be undertaken by everyone to get the negotiation process resumed.
Russia has many problems of a humanitarian nature. Our children are stolen; our children are adopted and then die in adoptive families. Similar cases also occur with citizens of other countries when parents abandon children. These are all humanitarian problems that necessarily require solving. But if we all make any such humanitarian problem a condition for dealing with strategic issues, then not a single negotiation process on key issues of modern international development can proceed normally. We have always advocated that any humanitarian problem, including the fate of the citizen of the Republic of Korea, be dealt with as soon as possible without any linkage to any issue whatsoever.
Question: Could you explain why the Russian side spoke out against the UN sanctions against the DPRK? You have also pointed out that not only Pyongyang, but the other Six-Party participants must fulfill their obligations. Could you cite an example of which one of the obligations is not being implemented at this moment?
Sergey Lavrov: As to the sanctions, they are counterproductive. The UN Security Council in the statement that was read out by its President did not impose any new sanctions. The accords being worked out in New York do not imply new sanctions, because the Security Council alone can adopt sanctions, and it has approved no decisions on that score apart from the statement adopted a few days ago.
As to the obligations that were adopted in the framework of the Six-Party process in September 2005 and have not been completely fulfilled today, it is enough to mention compensatory energy supplies to the DPRK. Far from all who were obliged to do so have fulfilled their obligations. There are also other, more technical aspects; I will not dwell on them.
Once again I want to stress that the chief thing today is not to lose the foundation that was laid in September 2005, nor allow us all to resort to actions capable of eroding it. We must all consolidate it again, and such possibilities are there. It won’t be easy, but this is the only way for us to return to the path that must lead us to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
April 25, 2009