South Korea's push to expand economic cooperation with Russia, China and their neighboring countries is expected to promote peace and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula if it draws in North Korea's participation in joint projects, the chief of a presidential committee said Monday.
South Korea has been exploring ways to step up economic cooperation with Russia and other Northeastern Asian nations in various areas under President Moon Jae-in's so-called New Northern Policy, launching the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation last year.
Under the initiative, South Korea and Russia have launched a consultative body to push for joint economic projects in various areas, including energy, shipbuilding, fishery and transportation, to create new growth drivers.
Song Young-gil, the chief of Presidential Committee on Norther Economic Cooperation, speaks during an international seminar held in Seoul on March 19. (Yonhap)
For some of cross-border projects that link South Korea and Russia's Far East, such as a gas pipeline and railway, North Korea's participation is essential.
"The initiative not only aims for economic growth of Eurasia but also provides alternatives for North Korean people so they can live without resorting to nuclear weapons," committee chairman Song Young-gil said during an international seminar held in Seoul. "The New Northern Policy will ultimately contribute to laying the groundwork for promoting prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Potential projects include the connection of a cross-border inter-Korean railway with the Trans-Siberian Railway, as well as the establishment of a power grid that connects Russia with the Northeast Asian electricity network involving South Korea, China and Japan.
The initiative also proposes the building of "nine bridges" between South Korea and Russia, including natural gas, railroads, seaports, electricity, Arctic shipping routes, shipbuilding, labor, agriculture and fisheries.
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has recently expressed his willingness to talk with Moon and US President Donald Trump, Song expressed hope that the historic summits could provide momentum for cross-border projects that would need collaboration with Pyongyang.
"If the South-North Korea summit and the North Korea-US summit are held successfully, the nine-bridge project will become a realistic goal, not a dream," Song said. "The New Northern Policy does not intend to alienate North Korea. It's aimed at helping North Korea normalize relations with the US and Japan to have them become a member of the international community." (Yonhap)