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Have smiled and have remained at the opinion
Results of the meeting of the presidents of Russia and South Korea in Vladivostok
2-3 September, President of the Republic of Korea Pak Kun Hye was in Vladivostok to attend the second Eastern Economic Forum (WEF) on the personal invitation of Vladimir Putin. During her visit, Russian-South Korean talks took place at the highest level, following which the presidents issued a joint statement for the press.
After the summit, two days have already passed, which made it possible to study and comprehend all the words, the setting of the meeting and the forum as a whole. If we evaluate the outcome of the meeting in a nutshell, Russia and South Korea acted very diplomatically and somewhat formally. The leaders of the two countries reiterated their already known positions, recalling the differences in a number of positions, but chose streamlined language acceptable to both sides and avoided sharp corners. At the same time, the agreements reached are only “declarations of intent”, which, in essence, do not oblige anyone or anything. However, all this did not prevent the South Korean media and the government from interpreting everything as it was beneficial to them in the light of the official policy implemented by Seoul.
As it always happens at summits of Russia and South Korea, negotiations, and the achieved results can be divided into two large parts. First, the security policy. Secondly - the economy-investment.
Smiling in public
The first part was potentially the most controversial and acute, given the recent decision by Seoul to host the American THAAD systems, which caused a negative reaction from Moscow, and especially from Beijing. Not for nothing, commenting on President Park Geun-hye's departure from Seoul, the Korean experts first of all noted: “The president flew to convince his neighbors about THAAD and the DPRK’s nuclear program”, referring to the meeting with Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok and Xi Jinping at the summit "Big Twenty" in Hangzhou.
As for the DPRK’s nuclear program and behavior in general, Vladimir Putin repeated Moscow’s standard approach to this issue: Russia does not recognize the DPRK as a nuclear power, a solution to this problem must be sought within the framework of a general military-political detente in Northeast Asia, it’s necessary “to unite the efforts of all countries of the region in order to ensure stability, security and prosperity. ” Park Geun-hye, who has recently unequivocally chosen only the pressure on the DPRK, has also spoken on this subject as standard, calling the North Korea’s nuclear issue the main security threat to the region.
Already on this aspect it is clear what Moscow and Seoul agree on and what they don’t. Russia and South Korea are against nuclear weapons in the DPRK, but the Russian side also speaks of “general military detente in the region”, which means not only the refusal of provocative actions by North Korea, but at least a decrease in the intensity of military maneuvers The United States and South Korea, which provoke Pyongyang, turning the whole situation into a vicious circle of mutual accusations of “creating tension”. Moscow also pointed out the advisability of negotiating to solve problems. Seoul, which is evident from the outcome of the negotiations, is inclined to blame only Pyongyang for tensions, and, as a rule, it is ready to conduct negotiations only on the condition of the DPRK’s preliminary steps towards giving up nuclear weapons.
The main "powder keg" of the Russian-South Korean talks - the US missile defense issue in South Korea - never exploded: neither Vladimir Putin nor Park Geun-hye directly mentioned this question. In this, perhaps, one of the main evidence that Moscow and Seoul have chosen at least not to wash dirty linen in public, having decided to "smile in public." However, as far as we know, this topic was discussed during the summit, and Putin stressed that the emergence of US missile defense systems does not contribute to stability in the region and does not cause enthusiasm for Moscow. The South Korean side made it clear that these complexes are not directed against Russia, and that Seoul THAAD is only a forced reaction of the South to the DPRK nuclear missile tests.
In their public statements following the meeting, the leaders of the Russian Federation and the ROK indirectly touched upon this topic, but very, very diplomatically: the Russian side by calling everyone to reduce tension, one of the sources of which is, according to the Russian Federation. and US missile defense in Korea (although, we repeat, THAAD did not sound the word "for the press" in Vladivostok). Pak also noted that "the DPRK is improving its arsenals," and therefore the RK "is forced to respond to the threat for the sake of protecting the security of the state and the lives of fellow citizens."
All this as a whole is, again, a repetition of positions already known and previously repeatedly stated by Moscow and Seoul on this issue. Nothing new was said, the parties were once again convinced that the THAAD theme in the south of the Korean Peninsula was evaluated differently. But at the same time, Moscow and Seoul decided “not to make trouble”, having got off with “a repetition of the past”.
Gift for Pak
In general, the general mood for a "friendly and constructive atmosphere of communication" with Koreans (and not only with them), the Russian leader emphasized, by making an elegant "personal gift" Pak Kun Hye. He presented her with the last lifetime New Year's wish, which was once written by her father, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Park Jeong-Hee, who ruled South Korea with 1961 for 1979. General Pak, as it turned out, had a tradition - to write for each New Year hieroglyphs the main desire for the coming year. At the very beginning of 1979, he produced four hieroglyphs that can be translated as: "Through the solidarity of the people, let's move forward." Until 1980, Park Jong-hee did not live - he was killed in October 1979, so this inscription was the last "lifetime New Year". This relic was sent to the United States in various ways, where, as explained pleasantly stunned and moved by Pak Kun Hye, Vladimir Putin, "we found it and bought it in one of the markets." "As it is written here, I would like our nations to go together to the future together," the words of the Russian president quoted by the Pak in the presidential administration have quoted. The inscription was framed under the glass, packed in a beautiful case and handed over to Pak Kun Hye.
It should be noted that the current leader of South Korea has a special relationship with his father. She lost her mother early, which was killed. Pak Kun Hye after that for a long time played the role of the "first lady" of the Republic of Korea, accompanying her father at various events. No wonder Pak was touched. In political terms, it is also obvious that such gifts are not made when the parties try to find out the relationship and intend to curse. This gift, which was personally presented by Putin personally, besides the protocol presentation, became a kind of symbol of Moscow's mood: yes, we will declare our position, but we will not swear (at least publicly). In addition, as it turned out, Pak Kun Hye earlier this year made some personal gift to Vladimir Putin's second daughter Catherine. This present, according to the Russian leader, "pleasantly surprised them", but because something should be done. Pak's arrival to Vladivostok provided an excellent opportunity for this, and at the same time allowed to divert the attention of the media from the analysis of the contradictions and conflicts between Moscow Seoul on regional security issues to savoring the story with a really "very personal present."
We will think about it
Another section of the outcome of the Russian-South Korean summit is the economy in the broadest sense of the word. Here, too, "beautiful and comfortable externally", but there are questions to the content and specific details. Everyone noticed that South Korea announced its intention to work with a view to concluding an agreement on free trade in the Eurasian Economic Community. In addition, the parties signed a total of 24 Memorandum of Understanding on possible cooperation with a wide range of areas: trade, investment, shipbuilding, agriculture and marine, health, space and others.
All this is certainly good, but in itself such MOUs do not oblige the party by and large to absolutely nothing. This is just an agreement in the style of "you can think about this topic." As the practice of the previous visit showed, when Vladimir Putin was in November 2013 year in Seoul, even the agreements, not to mention the MOU, are not insured against "silent oblivion". As explained by one of the Russian government experts, "for various reasons, most of the agreements 2013 year have not been implemented."
It is clear why representatives of the Russian Federation, including Vladimir Putin, speaking of "an important economic partner" in the face of South Korea, regularly pointed to "a large untapped potential in the sphere of bilateral economic cooperation" and called upon Seoul to invest in priority development areas, ports of the Far East and others . In response, it received: "We will think about it."
At the same time, South Korea made it clear that it does not intend - at least in the foreseeable future - to participate in Russian-North Korean projects. Pak Keng Hye said that this is possible "when solving the DPRK nuclear problem", which is almost equivalent to the word "never". Moreover, Seoul actually linked the expansion of economic interaction with Moscow with concessions from Pyongyang, making it clear to Russia: "If you want real cooperation with us, do so that the DPRK will abandon many of its positions." This approach "We are investing you - you are putting pressure on the DPRK" Seoul is trying to implement now in negotiations with other countries. Otherwise, it is difficult to interpret the following words from Pak Keng Hye: "To further expand Korean-Russian mutually beneficial cooperation, it is first of all important to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile problem as soon as possible, which is the greatest security threat in this region."
This summit essentially became the fulfillment of the two sides of the common "long-term homework" - the South Korean president's return visit to Russia, which he tried to organize from the year 2013, but this was hampered by events in Ukraine, then the calls from Washington to Seoul "not to think about 70 anniversary of the Victory Day in Moscow ", then something else. Russia and South Korea decided not to swear, and perhaps the last personal talks between Vladimir Putin and Pak Kun Hye in the presidency (the presidential elections in Korea will be held in December 2017) were held in an atmosphere of smiles both in public and, as far as can be judged, with personal Communication.
The parties did not yield to each other in anything, again just repeating each other's well-known positions. Russia received only “promises to think” about Korean investments in the Far East, which may or may not be realized in specific projects. However, no one hoped that South Korea could become a real superinvestor in Russia. The extremely cautious behavior of Korean companies in the Russian market and the aggregate volume of investments of Kazakhstan in the economy of the Russian Federation in the amount of only slightly more than 2,3 billion dollars speak for themselves. That is why the comments of Korean experts following the summit in the leading newspapers of Kazakhstan look somewhat exaggerated, saying that “Moscow decided to forget about US missile defense in exchange for our investments in the Far East”. The THAAD theme was raised, everyone again understood that it was not possible to come to an agreement, and the investments so far were limited to only large piles of “memorandums of understanding”. “So that you clearly understand, MOU and real investments differ in the same way as the girl’s agreement to drink coffee with you and your decision to get married,” said a good friend working for one of the South Korean state banks to the author. This is well understood in Russia.
But South Korea's media saw just what they wanted to see: "Moscow's position is not to recognize the nuclear status of the DPRK", "the agreement to take our decision on the deployment of THAAD", "the call to North Korea to give up provocations," etc., including " Putin, which symbolizes his desire to bring cooperation with us to a new level. " Indirect, but at the same time noticeable to experts about the need to reduce the scale of military exercises of the US and ROK, the position on the negative assessment of THAAD, calls to stop thinking only from the standpoint of strangling the DPRK and try to start negotiations with the North without preconditions - this is the majority of publications of the South missed.
The theme of THAAD in Korea is at the mercy of China, where, judging from the very first days of the “Big Twenty” in Hangzhou, it immediately began to sound publicly from the highest level. “In technical and military terms, the THAAD ABM system in the south of the Korean Peninsula is primarily a threat to China, and therefore it is logical that Beijing plays the first violin in the Russian-Chinese tandem, which is negatively attuned to the US missile defense system. We also oppose these complexes, but louder these topics should be awakened and it is the Chinese who do it. This is the reason for the difference, why we did not bring the differences to the public level, and the Chinese immediately put everything in its place, ”said a military expert close to the Russian government.
Although, however, the underlined mood of the Russian side not to make scandals to the guest invited to his home may have contributed to a similar interpretation of the outcome of the summit in Vladivostok by the Korean media. “We expected this. Korean media have long interpreted the results of the visits of their delegations in the very spirit that is beneficial for the government of Kazakhstan. This does not surprise us. The newspapers can write anything, and the officials and everyone else who was present at the talks, including the Korean president, seem to understand the real state of affairs. We clearly brought our position to the Koreans. And with real progress, you may have to wait. At this stage, we agreed to a “friendly atmosphere” without any real progress on pressing issues. Probably, the next summit will be with the new president of South Korea - then we'll talk again, ”said a source close to the Russian delegation.