Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Chung Eui-yong following their talks, Moscow, October 27, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
My colleague, Mr Chung Eui-yong, and I had meaningful, detailed talks on our bilateral relations, as well as regional and international matters.
The Republic of Korea is one of our most important partners in the Asia-Pacific region. We have a positive view of how our bilateral ties have been developing. This was our second meeting this year. In March 2021, I had the privilege of visiting Seoul where we opened the Year of Reciprocal Exchanges between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea marking the 30th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Today, after our talks, we will attend a closing ceremony of this year at the Maly Theatre.
We had a detailed discussion on trade and economic cooperation. It has been advancing quite successfully and recovering momentum after the decline caused by the coronavirus. Between January and August 2021, trade increased to almost $20 billion, a rise of more than 55 percent compared to the same period last year. We valued Korean businesses’ investment activity in Russia’s Far East. We also welcomed efforts to step up bilateral cooperation in the Arctic.
Minister Chung Eui-yong said he was satisfied with the proactive involvement of Korean businesses in our country, while he also expressed the wish that Russian businesses would participate more in the market of the Republic of Korea.
We agreed to keep up our efforts to implement the Nine Bridges concept put forward by President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, which covers cooperation in a number of spheres, including energy, transport, shipbuilding, agriculture, education and healthcare.
We paid special attention to the prospects for strengthening our cooperation on fighting COVID-19 in keeping with our bilateral agreements, as well as in the context of multilateral initiatives our countries are backing, with Korea focusing on Northeast Asia, and Russia working within the East Asia summits.
As usual, we had a detailed discussion on the developments on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. We are certain that there is no alternative to resolving all the problems this region faces by political and diplomatic means. We emphasised the need for all the parties involved to resume negotiations. It is important to understand that efforts to find a mutually acceptable and lasting solution must cover all the problems the Korean Peninsula faces in their complexity. We noted that it is particularly important for all the interested parties to renounce actions that may increase tension.
We talked about the future of cooperation between Russia and Korea in the United Nations, where we have been maintaining close, trust-based contacts, and also cooperation within the Group of 20 and other multilateral mechanisms.
We discussed the developments in the region which we and our Korean partners still call the Asia-Pacific region. Our positions coincide on a number of matters related to the concept of an Indo-Pacific strategy promoted by our Western colleagues.
It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome my colleague, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, with his delegation. I am sincerely grateful to you for accepting our invitation to attend the closing ceremony of our cross-year.
Question: During today’s talks, did you discuss the possibility that the American intermediate-range missiles, which are being developed, might be deployed on South Korean territory? Is this prospect or possibility a matter of concern for Russia, and did South Korea guarantee in any way that there will be no weapons of this kind there?
Sergey Lavrov: We did not discuss the possible deployment of US intermediate-range and shorter-range land-based missiles in the Republic of Korea for the simple reason that we know that the President and Government of the Republic of Korea oppose in principle any such deployment.
Speaking of other countries and regions, the fact that the Americans have declared their intention to deploy land-based missile systems that were banned under the INF Treaty, not only in Europe, but also in the Asia-Pacific, is of course a matter of concern for us. We believe that this would upend strategic stability and the balance that we have. We reaffirm the proposal that President Vladimir Putin made several years ago to the United States and other NATO members to introduce a reciprocal moratorium on the deployment of such missiles in all regions of the world and to introduce verification measures so that NATO can be sure that Russia does not have systems of this kind, while enabling us to ascertain that missile defence bases in Romania and Poland cannot be refitted with offensive cruise missiles. Our Western colleagues have been unwilling to commit themselves to this moratorium, and do not want to hold talks on this issue. This is sad. Furthermore, there is evidence that NATO planners are now looking east, and have already said, through the words of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, that NATO’s mission should include the Indo-Pacific region. What they say is their mission should cover the entire world. I believe that these are very dangerous games. We will do everything to counter trends of this kind and make sure that all countries understand the danger of moving in this direction.
Question: Can you comment on the use of Turkish drones by Ukrainian armed forces in Donbass?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s reported use of the Bayraktar drone against targets in Donbass, we are currently verifying this information. It is hard to distinguish fact from fiction in the plethora of statements coming from Kiev. We are now checking this information and using all means at our disposal for that, including direct contacts with Donbass representatives. It seems that these reports referred to developments in the village of Staromaryevka, which was targeted in a provocation by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. As far as we know, this attack was repelled. The initial reports showed that there were no casualties from the alleged use of the Bayraktar drone. Still, this must give pause to all those who encourage Ukraine in its capricious demands to become a NATO member and those who arm a regime in Kiev that is under the control of neo-Nazis.
Question: You said that you discussed security on the Korean Peninsula during the meeting. Have you discussed challenges on a more global scale? Many Russians are worried that NATO is concentrating its forces and weapons close to the Russian border and is ready to set up military bases in Ukraine. What diplomatic efforts are being made to keep NATO at a safe distance from our country? Thank you.
Sergey Lavrov: Diplomatic efforts are not enough in this situation. We need to respond in other ways that will measure up to the security threats the Russian Federation is facing. Let me assure you that President Vladimir Putin is keeping these matters under his personal control, as are all the relevant agencies, both on the diplomatic and non-diplomatic fronts.