Question: How do you see the prospects of further rapprochement between North and South Koreas and what role could Russia play in stabilising the situation on the Peninsula or in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole?
Vladimir Putin: After the major event – the meeting of the North and South Korean leaders – good prospects have opened up for dialogue between the two countries and for a positive development of the situation in the region.
The DPRK leadership has clearly stated its readiness to promote relations with all countries, and I think we should do everything to support this policy.
That is in the interest of North Korea and South Korea and in the interests of all the states in the region and, without exaggeration, it is in the interests of the whole international community.
I have already said that the North Korean leader, Mr Kim Chong Il, has clearly and unambiguously spoken about his priorities. I had the impression that it was his genuine position.
We have seen proof of such a policy on Korean television screens when families which had been separated by the political events of the past decade were reunited. I think that is a very good result. We should use every means to contribute to this process at the political level and by setting up multi-lateral economic projects that would create and strengthen the basis of cooperation between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea.
It meets our country’s interests. First, because it is happening close to our borders and we want to see stability and peace in that region. And secondly, the involvement of the Far East and the Siberian regions of the Russian Federation in international cooperation would boost their development.
There will be no losers in the multi-lateral relations in the region. Everybody stands to gain.
Question: What do you think will be the impact of the reforms in North Korea on the project of linking the Trans-Siberian Railway with Korean railways?
And the second question. Is there any specific reason why you have come earlier than scheduled?
Vladimir Putin: As for my coming here a little earlier than scheduled, the answer is that I was simply in a hurry. I haven’t visited Korea for some time and I was eager to come here as soon as possible.
As for the questions connected with the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Korean Railway, our expectations are very positive.
I think there are several factors involved. First, of course, comes the economic factor. We recalled this project at a meeting with business people today and, incidentally, South Korean businessmen said that the use of railways would cut the time it takes for goods to be delivered from the region to Europe by half, from 25 to 12 days. That is an obvious gain.
The volume of cargo carried can increase by 25,000 containers every year to reach half a million containers over the next five years.
That is the first, purely economic component. The second is closely linked to humanitarian problems. And it is closely linked with the policy pursued by the President of the Republic of Korea with regard to its northern neighbour, the policy aimed at developing the infrastructure, creating jobs and maintaining and developing economic relations with North Korea.
All the countries in the region involved in the project would become more transparent, more understandable; their policies would become more predictable, because they would be connected with major international projects. The Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Korean Railway is only one multi-functional and multi-national project that we have proposed to our neighbours in the region, both to the Republic of Korea and to the DPRK.