Moscow and Pyongyang: first contact (VIDEO)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"On May 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made an official visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and was received by Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong-un," the statement reads.
It was noted that Lavrov is the first Russian to meet with the current North Korean leader.
"The talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho discussed the current state of and the prospects for the further development of friendly relations and cooperation between Russia and North Korea, as the two countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year," the ministry added.
"There was a thorough exchange of views on the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula, with the focus on ways to enhance the coordination of efforts aimed at finding political and diplomatic solutions to the entire range of issues the subregion has been facing," TASS cited the statement as saying.
Lavrov also conveyed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wishes of success in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue to Kim Jong-un. "Russian President very much values the kind words you said in a message following his re-election. He sends his kindest regards and best wishes of success in implementing the efforts that have been initiated on the Korean Peninsula with your participation," the Russian foreign minister said.
According to Lavrov, Russia very much values the Panmunjom Declaration adopted at the first inter-Korean summit and is ready to facilitate its implementation. "We are interested in seeing peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the entire Northeast Asia," he said. "We have a positive view of the Panmunjom Declaration you signed with the South Korean president," the diplomat stressed.
"We are ready to facilitate its implementation in every possible way, particularly as it mentions railway projects that may involve Russia in the future," Lavrov pointed out.
The Director of the Center for Studies of Eastern Asia and the SCO of the Institute for International Studies of MGIMO, Alexander Lukin, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, recalled that Russia and North Korea already have bilateral relations, including trade, although its total volume is small. Lavrov's visit to Pyongyang, according to him, is related to the issues of sanctions and a possible meeting of US President Donald Trump with Kim Jong-un, more precisely, Russia's position on this meeting.
"It is known that Kim Jong-un is pursuing a rather cunning policy. On the one hand, he announced his readiness to abandon nuclear weapons, and on the other hand, he put the US president in a rather hopeless situation, since Trump tried to cancel the meeting, but, apparently, he could not do it. He wanted the DPRK to give up arms for any meaningless promises, security guarantees, and so on," the expert explained.
The director of the Center for Studies of Eastern Asia and the SCO of the Institute for International Studies of MGIMO noted that part of Kim Jong-un's plan is to achieve assistance from other states. "He visited China, suddenly began a friendship with South Korea, in order to say that the whole world agreed and it was Trump who cut off the agreement. And this strategy is already working," he said.
"Relations with Russia are also part of this plan, Pyongyang needs to show that Russia also supports it. Moscow, by the way, has already said that it supports not only the meeting with Trump, but, by and large, North Korea's position. For Russia it is advantageous as well, because Russia believes that the DPRK should abandon nuclear weapons, but we are not interested on what conditions Pyongyang and Washington will do it," Alexander Lukin concluded.
The head of the program 'Russia in the Asia-Pacific region' of the Moscow Carnegie Center, Alexander Gabuev, noted that negotiations with the United States are important for Pyongyang in the first place. "Three of the external players are the US, South Korea and China. Russia is in fourth place, with a noticeable lag," the expert explained.
According to him, Russia is important to North Korea as a neighboring country, with which official trade is conducted, butin a very small amount - about $ 90 million. "Russia helps North Korea to exert sanctions, implementing various schemes to allow the North Korean regime earn currency through various companies in the Far East.There are reports of some Russian companies involved in the supply of petroleum products to North Korea," Gabuev listed.
"But on the whole, Russia's economic influence is much less than that of China. Therefore, it is not surprising that the contact didn't take place earlier. And most importantly, from the North Korean point of view it is not obvious what this contact will give as a tool for improving negotiating positions. Russia, on the whole, does not have an ambitious agenda on the Korean peninsula, but it wants to avoid fighting. On the other hand, it wants to remain relevant. So, Lavrov makes statements now that if the sanctions on North Korea are lifted, it will contradict the UN Security Council resolution, which is a kind of symbolism that satisfies both sides," the expert concluded.