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Russian experts upbeat on upcoming Korean summit

Moscow, 8 August: Russian experts expect the meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas, which is set to take place in late August, to help reinforce Russia's security and implement major projects, including connecting the Trans-Siberian railway to the railways on the Korean peninsula.

"It is important to us that multilateral projects are discussed at this meeting, including those in the railway and energy sectors," professor Georgiy Bulychev, director of the centre for modern Korean studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).

He said that Russia should ask Seoul and Pyongyang to include these issues on the agenda for the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. (Passage omitted: details about railways)

The head of the centre for Korean studies at the Russian Academy of Science's Far East Institute, Aleksandr Zhebin, believes that the upcoming Korean summit may contribute to a healthier situation on the peninsula and a strengthening of Russia's security, since Russia wants to eliminate the hotbeds of tensions near its borders that have remained since the Cold War.

"At the same time the region would become a place for global processes of development and integration, where Russia is counting on taking a very active part," the expert said.

Zhebin believes that the unsolved security issues on the peninsula and the nuclear problem are definitely not in Russia's interests, including with regard to developing the (Russian) Far East. (Passage omitted: background)

"The upcoming summit may also signal a significant step forward in the general political settlement on the Korean peninsula," believes Aleksandr Pikayev, the head of the department for disarmament and regulation of conflict at IMEMO's centre for international security.

In his opinion, it is no coincidence that just a few days ago a meeting of the working group for economic and energy cooperation took place as part of the six-party talks at the negotiation site in Panmunjeom in the demilitarized zone, where ways to give aid to Pyongyang will be decided. The other four working groups are to hold meetings in the near future, including one in Moscow, on how to create a mechanism for peace and security in Northeast Asia.

"Russia wants the six-party mechanism to be aimed at a settlement between two Koreas. The summit may help the group of six turn into an instrument that could deal with all situations on the peninsula, and Russia will have an important role there," Pikayev said. (Passage omitted: speculation about the preparations for the meeting) Bulychev believes that the South Korean decision to send its leader to North Korea again is "a very wise step, because in the current conditions, when there has been real progress in denuclearizing the peninsula, it gives a great impulse to reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas".

Bulychev takes the view that Seoul will take the initiative at the six-party talks and that it can increase its role in the peace process significantly.

"This is important for the domestic political situation in South Korea: the summit will improve the position of the ruling party and its candidate at the presidential election, which is set to take place in December. Of course, the irreconcilable opposition will be even more unhappy with the summit, because it reduces its chances, and it will make accusations that inter-Korean relations are being used for political purposes," Bulychev said.

Zhebin believes the administration of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will definitely want to strengthen its position ahead of the upcoming election.

"The president himself may not be able to run for another term, but it is obvious that his successor from the ruling camp will increase his chances of victory if the summit is successful," Zhebin said.

The success of the summit, in his opinion, will demonstrate that the "sunshine policy" which was started by Kim Dae-jung, is correct, and also the policy of peace and prosperity and joint economic development with North Korea started by Roh Moo-hyun.

Pikayev takes the view that Seoul is pursuing its economic interests.

"South Korea is investing seriously in North Korea and, according to the terms of the nuclear deal, it has to deliver fuel oil to Pyongyang as fuel for power plants, provide commodities and all of this demands that it maintain good relations," the expert said.