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Seoul proposes peace, economic ties with Russia, N.Korea

South Korea has urged Russia to play a lead role in forging all-round ties between Seoul and Pyongyang, a special envoy for the South Korean president-elect said on Monday.
MOSCOW, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - South Korea has urged Russia to play a lead role in forging all-round ties between Seoul and Pyongyang, a special envoy for the South Korean president-elect said on Monday.

Lee Jae-oh, who arrived in Russia last Saturday, delivered a letter to the Russian president from President-elect Lee Myung-bak Monday via Vladimir Putin's foreign affairs adviser.

While in Russia Lee, who is the fourth envoy to the four neighboring countries of Japan, China, Russia and the United States, will discuss the South Korean president's plan to create a northeast Asian economic community.

"We propose establishing a joint peace and economic committee between South and North Korea and Russia, which could serve as a platform to discuss peace and economic issues in the region," Lee Jae-oh said at a meeting with Konstantin Pulikovsky, co-chair of a Russian-South Korean intergovernmental commission.

Pulikovsky backed the proposal, saying he would do all he can "to put it into practice."

The South Korean official also said his country would like to participate in developing East Siberia.

"The Korean government hopes that we will be able to take an active part in developing East Siberia - not only in the oil and gas sector, but also the Trans-Korean Railway," he said, adding the railway line could link Pyongyang, Seoul and Moscow.

He said Russia could be instrumental in getting North Korea involved in cooperation with South Korea, stressing, however, that Pyongyang's nuclear program was a "stumbling block."

"If North Korea abandons its nuclear program, that would accelerate the development of ties between our countries," Lee Jae-oh said.

During Lee's six-day visit, he will also visit Vladivostok for talks on joint development of oil fields and the Trans-Siberian Railroad, as well as ways of increasing bilateral trade and Korean companies' direct investment in Russia.

In mid-December, North Korea agreed to hold trilateral talks with Russia and South Korea on a railway project linking the Korean peninsula with Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway.

If the project goes ahead freight trains capable of delivering up to 200,000 containers per year will take 10-12 days to transport cargo from South Korea to Europe via North Korea and Russia.

In December, both Koreas resumed a regular train service between the two countries after a hiatus of more than half a century, in a step hailed by Seoul as a major breakthrough in rebuilding economic ties

In November the two Koreas agreed on a range of projects aimed at rebuilding the impoverished North's decaying infrastructure, including South Korean plans to build a shipyard in the northwest of the country and to repair the highway linking Kaesong to the capital, Pyongyang.

The two states have yet to sign a formal peace agreement to replace the ceasefire following the 1950-1953 Korean War, meaning that the sides technically remain at war. The United States, whose signature is needed on a peace treaty, has said it will not sign until the North scraps its nuclear weapons "in a verifiable fashion."

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