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Will Putin Trump The U.S.' Moves In Northeast Asia?

By Vusala Abbasova June 9, 2018

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Shen Haixiong, president of the China Media Group [on the left], had an exclusive interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin [on the right]

Russia is planning to expand trilateral economic cooperation with South and North Korea by executing major infrastructure projects, amid improved relations between the two countries that make up the Korean Peninsula.

“For our part we have always offered, and this remains on the negotiating table, trilateral economic projects between Russia and the northern and southern parts of the Korean Peninsula,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his interview with Media Corporation of China. “This is primarily infrastructure projects.”

Deep-rooted, historical tension between the two Koreas has given way to rapprochement between their two leaders, namely President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the head of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Kim Jong-un.

Putin has repeatedly stated Russia’s intent to develop stable cooperation with Asian countries, especially the two Koreas. Both have expressed interest in creating a network of railways that will bridge all three.

During the interview Putin noted that he did not exclude the possibility of expanding projects in order to bring China on board.

“We are talking about building a railway, let's say - by the way, China could join these projects - between Russia, North Korea, and South Korea,” he added.

“We are talking about laying a gas pipeline,” Putin said, addressing energy concerns. “We can also consider the construction of various other energy facilities.”

He cited China’s mega-transportation project known as the Belt and Road Initiative as a “useful, important and promising initiative.”

“This initiative is combined with our efforts to build the Eurasian Economic Union,” he said, referencing the post-Soviet economic bloc that some see as Russia’s response to the European Union.

Although some experts say that Russian willingness to build up stronger ties with the countries of the Korean peninsula is just a move made in retaliation for America’s sanctions, the head of the School of Asian Studies in Russia, Aleksey Maslov, told Caspian News that Putin’s statement has an economically oriented character rather than a political one.

“Russia is trying to find its place in Asian markets, since the country’s presence in Eastern Asia and APEC’s [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] markets is measured by one or one and a half percent,” Maslov said, adding that Russia must offer serious options that will be beneficial in the long-term.

“A pipeline project from Russia to South Korea, through North Korea, as well as the opening of a special economic zone in the region, will lead to the strengthening of Russia's economic position in the region,” Maslov said.