Valdai Club Asian Conference Focuses on Economic Cooperation and Security
Seoul, South Korea
List of speakers

At the press conference held after the first session of the Valdai Club’s eighth Asian regional conference in Seoul, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov spoke about details of the Russian roadmap for the Korean peninsula crisis settlement.

According to Morgulov, the Russian plan consists of three stages. At the first stage, a so-called double freeze is proposed: North Korea should renounce carrying out new nuclear tests and missile launches, while the United States and its allies should renounce conducting large-scale exercises in the region. The second stage means establishment of direct dialogue between the United States and North Korea on the issues of peaceful coexistence and mutual recognition. At the same stage, the inter-Korean dialogue could be resumed. The third stage is about launching multilateral negotiations on complex issues and mechanisms of peace and security in Northeast Asia. At this stage, issues of denuclearization and demilitarization of the Korean peninsula could be discussed. This plan has received support of Chinese partners, so it is often called the Russian-Chinese initiative.

Morgulov noted that the content of the Russian roadmap was brought to the US and North Korea and was not rejected. Some elements of the plan were discussed separately with both countries. Unfortunately, as deputy foreign minister noted, the decisions taken by the US in October and November regarding unscheduled exercises make it very difficult to use this roadmap for peace settlement. Meanwhile, North Korea respected the regime of silence for two months, in fact following the roadmap. Morgulov believes that the US actions, sanctions and exercises will not lead to results expected in Washington. “If the aim is to make North Korea give up nuclear weapons and missile programs, with a policy like this, these will be the last things Pyongyang will renounce,” he said. Meanwhile, increasing pressure puts the country on the verge of a humanitarian tragedy.

Commenting on the Russian roadmap, Song Young-gil, special envoy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, noted that it is one of the options for the development of events if inter-Korean dialogue is launched.

Another key topic of discussion at the press conference was the Russian initiative of the Greater Eurasian partnership and how it can take regional economic cooperation to a new level. According to Morgulov, the Greater Eurasian partnership is somewhat different from the confluence between the EAEU and the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. The Greater Eurasian partnership means creation of common rules for the economic game in Eurasia. Here Russia relies on the EAEU and on this basis it is ready to establish integration economic ties with the SCO and ASEAN countries. It’s not just about economic cooperation, but also about non-tariff regulation, elimination of administrative barriers, simplification of trade terms, etc. In all these issues there is progress with China, but the door to participation is open to all, including the EU countries.

According to Song Young-gil, it is necessary to deepen economic cooperation and develop new mechanisms. South Korea and Russia agreed to establish a working group on creating a free trade area. Due to the fact that the American project of Trans-Pacific partnership actually failed, Seoul sees the need to conduct a free trade area dialogue with Russia.

According to Hyun Jung Taik, President of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, the strategy for development of the nine bridges, proposed by Korean President Moon Jae-in, should be the basis for deepening the partnership between Russia and South Korea. These bridges or spheres of cooperation are gas, railways, the Northern Sea Route, shipbuilding, creation of working groups, agriculture and other types of cooperation. According to Hyun Jung Taik, in the long run North Korea could join these projects.

The final part of the press conference was devoted to the creation of a unified information space in Eurasia. As he was answering reporters’ questions, Alexei Volin, Deputy Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia, said that Russian media content is actively entering the Asian markets. In the markets of China, for example, the main competitor of Russian media content is South Korea, which means that this Asian market is experiencing a rapid growth. According to Volin, the Asian media market will continue to grow, opening up new opportunities for Russia. He noted that Russia assesses the prospects of establishing a media platform that could unite all Asian markets. As experience of creating the BRICS TV channel has demonstrated, this could be done on the basis of a Russian television company which would distribute the most competitive media products in the form of shows, movies and series.

The press conference was held as part of the eighth Asian regional conference of the Valdai Club. Questions from reporters and participants were answered by the conference organizers: Andrey Bystritskiy and Hyun Jung Taik, as well as officials from Russia and South Korea: Igor Morgulov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Alexei Volin, Deputy Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, and Song Young-gil, Chairperson of South Korea’s Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation.