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South Korea is the last leg of Putin’s Asia tour that also took him to Vietnam.
Putin in Seoul backed a new Asian-European rail trade route, a transport corridor linking the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia, and Europe.
“We have decided to modernise the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railways and are putting considerable money into these projects, including from our reserve funds.”
“This marks the first practical steps towards carrying out the possible trilateral project of joining the Trans-Korean Railway to the Trans-Siberian Railway. We hope that South Korean investors will get actively involved in this big project,” urged the Russian President.
Putin said he was aware of the political limitations but urged that this project is of interest to all three parties: South Korea, North Korea, and Russia.
Putin also said Russia would back a reunification bid between the North and the South, provided it was “exclusively peaceful”.
In an interview to a South Korean broadcaster, Putin said reunification of the Koreas “can be very fruitful, constructive and bring great and positive results for the international politics, ensuring security in the region, as well as for the economics of the rapidly developing region”.
Six-party talks to denuclearize North Korea in exchange for aid have been stalled since late 2008. The talks involved Russia, the United States, China, Japan and two Koreas.
Putin also said the two sides need to initiate reciprocal investment initiatives.
“Acting on our Korean friends’ proposal, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Korean Investment Corporation will establish an investment platform worth $1 billion, and following Russia’s proposal, Vnesheconombank and Korea’s Eximbank will set up a targeted financing mechanism with the same amount of money,” Putin announced.
Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $25 billion.
Korean investment in the Russian economy amounts to $2.5 billion and more than 600 companies with South Korean capital are working in the Russian market, asserted Putin.
Putin also oversaw the signing of a memorandum on cooperation between Russian Railways and South Korea’s POSCO.
The Russia President’s visit also resulted in Russia and South Korea switching to a visa-free travel regime.
The visa agreement will allow citizens of either country to visit the other visa-free for up to 60 days at a time, and up to 90 days total over any six-month period.
Over 167,000 Russians visited South Korea last year, while about 95,000 South Koreans traveled to Russia.
TBP and Agencies