VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Saturday to work closely together to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff and continue cooperation on a project to build a gas pipeline stretching from Russia across both Koreas, an official said.
Lee and Putin reached the agreement during a one-on-one summit held in this Far Eastern Russian city on the sidelines of an annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum set to open later in the day, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said.
It was Lee's first face-to-face meeting with Putin since the Russian leader took office in May.
"I anticipate South Korea and Russia will cooperate closely in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue," Lee said during the summit, stressing that ending the regional security headache is vital for the gas pipeline and other joint projects, according to Park.
"There will come a time when North Korea has to make up its mind (on the nuclear issue), and I believe its resolution can come earlier if we cooperate multilaterally from now. Therefore we need to make joint efforts," Lee was quoted as saying.
Putin agreed, saying Russia has great interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula, Park said.
Russia is a member of the long-stalled six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. The country is also one of the five veto-holding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The gas pipeline project is aimed at bringing Siberian natural gas to South Korea. The project has been discussed for about 20years, but never materialized due in part to security tensions. It gained momentum last year after the then North's leader, KimJong-il, expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through.
The sides also agreed to launch negotiations on visa waiver and social security treaties to help boost economic and other exchanges between the two countries, Park said. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fisheries and defense sectors, he said.
Lee invited Putin to visit South Korea, and the Russian leader said he would do so at an appropriate time, Park said.