Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Question: How did the visit go off?
Putin: The visit continues and, in my view, is going well. This February, you may recall, North Korea and Russia signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation, and the main aim of our visit is to fill this treaty with concrete content. As far as I know, the State Duma ratified the treaty today.
Currently, our contacts are at a very low level. By comparison, in the Soviet era trade ran into billions [of dollars], whereas today it does not top the $100 million mark.
North Korea has recently stepped up its foreign contacts and is developing now relations and negotiating with the United States, Japan and South Korea. We know that two leaders of North Korea and South Korea have recently had a historic meeting. We believe that settlement in the Korean Peninsula is a matter above all for the Koreans themselves, but we are ready, if necessary, to make what contribution we can to the solution of all conflict issues that still exist in that part of the world.
We have signed a joint statement and, in my view, this is a good and positive outcome of our joint efforts. This statement mirrors both belief in the principles laid down in the United Nations Charter and our common approaches to solving international problems on the basis of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty, and observance of the fundamental rules of international law.
We also discussed the economic aspect of our joint efforts in more detail. North Korea has many projects built with Soviet technical assistance. And, of course, it is a very good indication that we have talked of the possibility of restoring and expanding these facilities. There are also infrastructure projects. Today, for example, I said that if the Korean side shows interest, we could jointly build a railway line from the south of the Korean Peninsula to North Korea and further, across Russia, to Europe. In my view, this is an attractive proposition, to link this part of the world via a railway to Europe.
Another priority issue was security. It is common knowledge that the United States plans to deploy a national system of missile defence, and these plans are based on claims that some countries, including North Korea, pose a threat. We discussed this subject at length and very openly. I suppose you have been issued with the text of the joint statement, and you will see from it that the North Korean leader stressed that all missile programmes in his country were entirely peaceful.
In addition to the signed document, I can tell you that due to a high level of trust in our discussions, the North Korean head made the point that his country was ready to use exclusively rockets of other states, if they allow it to, for the peaceful exploration of space. I think this is a subject that calls for further discussions, and that such a statement came from the North Korean leader for the first time.
I repeat, our negotiations were basically concerned with bilateral relations, and we want to give an impulse to the development of contacts between our two states. I have invited the leader of North Korea to visit Russia, and my invitation was accepted. We believe that visits by other North Korean statesmen to Russia could also be useful, including by members of Parliament, the foreign minister, the defence minister, as well as greater efforts by all our ministries in the areas concerned.
Question: Did he explain why he should be supplied with rockets?
Putin: Yes, he did. He said it was for the peaceful exploration of space. If some country is ready to provide North Korea with launch vehicles, it will be prepared to abandon its rocket research in general.
Question: Are we ready to supply them?
Putin: This will require some calculation. Why should Russia alone pay for the peaceful exploration of space? There must be other interested countries. If they claim that the programme threatens somebody else, perhaps some collective thought should be given to what has been said by the North Korean leader. If someone feels threatened, they can minimise these threats by supplying their launch vehicles. As I understand it, it was clearly stated that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is willing to avail itself of the services of other countries.
Question: Is Russia ready to be a political guarantor for North Korea in this case?
Putin: As regards any political guarantees for the Korean Peninsula, Russia is prepared to make what contribution it can to the solution of all problems in that part of the world. But we do not believe Russia’s efforts alone would be enough. What is needed is many-sided efforts, including those by the United States and other regional powers – China and Japan.