Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Full Version of the Interview by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “Russia Will Become a Stabilizing Factor in the Asia Pacific Region (APR)” published in the “Izvestia” newspaper on January 27, 2012
Question: On September 8-9, Vladivostok will host the APEC Summit. How much has been done so far in the preparation for this important event? What edge-cutting achievements in Russian economy and foreign policy can be expected?
Answer: It won't be an exaggeration to say that the presidency at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, whose culmination point will be the 8-9 September APEC Summit in Vladivostok, is of paramount importance to Russia. Its successful implementation is expected to give a considerable impetus to the realization of the strategic line approved by President Dmitry Medvedev and aimed at strengthening our positions in the APR, including the active involvement of Russia, particularly the regions of Eastern Siberia and the Far East, in the Asia-Pacific integration. This means providing favorable environment that would help Russia follow the innovation path of economic development, contribute to the effective use of the region's potential for the purposes of the social-economic recovery of our eastern territories and to the strengthening of the position and role of our country in the regional security and cooperation architecture.
In the course of preparations for the Summit we will hold about a hundred different events at the ministerial and experts levels. Their outcomes will directly influence the results of the leaders' meeting. We therefore focus on giving real substance to the work of the forum throughout the Russian presidency.
The agenda reflects first of all the priorities of the APEC work for 2012 presented by Russia. These include liberalizing trade and investment, expanding regional economic integration, establishing safe transportation and logistics systems, active collaboration in order to ensure innovation growth, food security. Our proposals received consensual support at both the symposium and the APEC informal senior officials meeting held in Saint-Petersburg in December 2011.
We hope to make full use of the Russian presidency in order to draw attention to the intellectual, technological, and natural-resources potential of our country, first of all of its eastern part, to highlight the prospects related with the creation of the Common Economic Space with our neighbors, Kazakhstan and Belarus. To this end, we plan to hold APEC events in different cities of the Russian Federation, particularly in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Yaroslavl, and of course Vladivostok.
Our approach in relation to APEC presidency aims at providing a maximal possible integration of Russian initiatives into practical cooperation projects. An effective realization of this task will directly contribute to increasing Russia's weight and influence in the APR, as well as strengthening regional stability and security.
Question: Are there any positive developments in the negotiations with Japan on the territorial issue? What can we expect here in the light of the anticipated victory at the forthcoming presidential election of Vladimir Putin who has so far had a tough stance towards the problem?
Answer: Russia has an absolutely consistent approach to the issue of a peace treaty with Japan. We are in negotiations with Japan on this problem, and we are ready to pursue them. Our position, however, greatly differs from that of Japan.
The Southern Kuril Islands which Japan is trying to claim, are the territory of the Russian Federation in accordance with the realities of international law established following the outcomes of World War II, and laid down in the UN Charter.
Joint work aimed at finding a solution to this problem may yield fruit only on condition that close partner relations between Russia and Japan are established that would provide for an extensive development of cooperation in various fields, constructive interaction in the international arena. Good neighbors and partners will find it much easier to agree, even over most complicated matters.
We believe that it is important to consider such complicated issues of the history of bilateral relations first of all within the framework of a dialogue between historians. As we know by experience, public discussions, particularly in a confrontational manner, lead only to a spread of polar attitudes and antagonisms within society. This will by no means bring us closer to the settlement. This position was set out by President Dmitry Medvedev, clearly and in detail, during his meetings with Japanese leaders.
Vladimir Putin knows this "territorial" issue to the letter; he has a huge experience of contacts with Japanese leaders and has made a considerable contribution to the development of the Russian-Japanese exchanges. Following his visit to Tokyo in 2009, new promising areas for cooperation with Japan in the energy sector, including atomic energy, as well as high technologies and engineering were outlined. Intensification of ties in these areas coupled with full-scale collaboration in the international arena on urgent security issues would provide a favorable environment for the advancement of the political dialogue.
Question: What are the prospects for the settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue with Kim Jong-un's rise to power in Pyongyang? What prevents the resumption of the six-party talks on the North Korea's nuclear program? What are the tactics and strategy of Russia on this track?
Answer: Lessening of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, without which it is impossible to speak of the improvement of the situation in the Northeast Asia as a whole, is extremely important for us. There is probably no need to explain that we are referring to the region directly adjacent to the Far East border of Russia. This is the reason why everything that happens over there directly affects our country.
The current situation has its roots in the middle of the last century. The region largely represents a sort of "splinter" left as a result of confrontation of the Cold War epoch. Its sharpest point is the continuing confrontation between the two Korean States.
We expect that Pyongyang and Seoul will rise above disagreements and find opportunities for dialogue and cooperation. Other countries should facilitate and not obstruct this process.
As for the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula, we have to admit that we did not manage to end a pause in the process of talks which has been continuing for three years. The main reason for this is the deficit of trust between the DPRK and a number of other six-party talks' participants. Moreover, the North Korean partners do not believe that the international legal mechanisms can ensure the security of the country.
Nevertheless, the efforts by different Parties contributed to the creation of conditions for the resumption of talks. The Russian Party managed to make the essential progress in restarting the dialogue. We could persuade the North Korean partners to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions. Let us recall that Kim Jong-il, the former leader of the DPRK, declared it during his meeting with the President D. Medvedev in Ulan-Ude in August last year.
The death of the North Korean leader resulted in a pause in relaunching the six-party talks. However, at the moment we do not have any reasons to expect the additional challenges. At the present time the situation in the DPRK is stable. On New Year's Eve, Pyongyang officially declared that there would be no changes in its policy. We see it as a commitment of the new DPRK leadership to observe all bilateral and multilateral agreements reached within the framework of the six-party process. We proceed from the fact that all these obligations remain in force for all other participants of the talks as well.
The key condition for the resumption of talks on the nuclear issue and its further settlement is the creation of the atmosphere of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around it. We expect the Parties to exercise maximum restraint in everything that concerns military activity in the region, primarily in sensitive areas, which are the matter of territorial disputes.
We think that an important factor in creation of such an atmosphere is the establishment of peace and security mechanism in the Northeast Asia, which is being formed under the Chairmanship of Russia within the framework of the six-party talks. We are ready to continue this work right after the resumption of the six-party process.
We have an interest in further development of good-neighbourly relations with Pyongyang and stated it, in particular, in the message of the President D.Medvedev on occasion of the death of Kim Jong-il. We hope that the new DPRK leadership intends to act in the same way. As the Eastern wisdom says: "A close neighbour is better than a distant relative".
Question: China and the USA are fighting in the APR for the control over the Pacific Ocean. Beijing is increasing its influence on such countries as Myanmar, Fiji and Timor-Leste, an important state from the strategic point of view, whereas Washington – on Australia and New Zealand. What should Russia do in order not to lose its ground in the region?
Answer: Global trade routes go through the vast and dynamically developing APR. New effective commodity, financial and technological chains are being created here. The region strengthens its position on the international scene. The role of the Asia-Pacific economies as a driving force of the global growth will only increase further on. We witness the increase of the APR influence on the development of not only regional but also international economic and political agenda.
In this context the growing interest in the region from major powers is quite justified. We too consistently enhance our position here which is solidly based on friendly and mutually beneficial relations with almost every APR state.
It is important to prevent the legitimate increase of attention of international community to the situation in the APR from going beyond the limits of natural and mutually stimulating competition and following the negative path of heated rivalry or even confrontation. Such development could be particularly dangerous taking into account the continuing contradictions, conflicts and territorial disputes in the region. Being mosaic in character, the Asia-Pacific region faces multiple security threats, including in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation, fight against terrorism and organized crime, or in dealing with the consequences of natural and technological disasters. Economic and social risks are growing, in particular in light of the threat of a global depression. All this is fraught with the loss of balance and stability in the region.
In this context our efforts are aimed at comprehensive development of multilateral network diplomacy and extensive dialogue infrastructure in order to identify potential collective threats in a timely manner and to collaborate in searching the ways to overcome them.
We have achieved quite a lot in this area recently – Russia has become a full-fledged member of the East Asia Summit mechanism, has joined the ASEM interregional dialogue forum, actively works in a dialogue format of the Defence Ministers Meetings of the ASEAN states and their external partners. One of the major multilateral meetings this year will be the APEC summit that Russia, presiding at the APEC Forum, will host in Vladivostok.
Our conceptual contribution to the creation of the comprehensive cooperation and security architecture in the APR is the joint initiative of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and the President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao put forward in September 2010. This initiative contains key principles that may become pillars of such architecture. They are the rule of international law, non-bloc approaches, equality, openness and inclusiveness. The document contains provisions concerning the development and adaptation to the conditions of the region of the universal principles of indivisibility of security and the abandonment of the attempts to strengthen one's own security at the expense of the security of others. We suggest creating regional security system solidly based on international law and on such fundamental principles as peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force, renunciation of confrontation and cooperation aimed against third countries, as well as on partner relationships between multilateral organizations in the APR.
We are convinced that the Russian-Chinese proposals may become a unifying idea for Asia and the Pacific. It is not without reason that they have already received positive responses from many APR states and aroused interest within the UN. Some of the provisions contained in the initiative are included in joint outcome documents of high level bilateral meetings with the heads of a number of major states of the region.
Russian foreign policy toward Asia considers the implementation of these provisions its short-term priority. It will ensure that our country not only preserves its position in the renewed APR architecture, but also strengthens its role as an important stabilizing factor in the region, and as a reliable and serious partner for the APR states.