South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrived in St. Petersburg tonight for a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. This is a useful stopover on the way to the G20 summit in Cannes, France.
Both sides have something to put on the table. Like China and Japan, south Korea wants Russian energy and a pipeline linking it to Russian natural gas. The kicker here is that the pipeline will go via North Korea providing the pariah state with foreign currency and hopefully a reason to avoid causing trouble.
The deal was negotiated between Medvedev and Kim Jong-Il of North korea in August.
Lee gave tentative approval and claimed in an interview with Le Figaro-Economie that it appears to meet the interests of all three countries participating in it – Russia, South Korea and North Korea.
Lee would want Russian approval in steering the peninsula to peaceful unification. To cope with the tremendous outlay that would be required in case of unification, South Korea hopes to build a 50 billion dollar unification fund.
Medvedev, soon to turn over the presidency to Putin, will be the next Prime Minister and as such wants Korean help in modernizing the Russian economy that is still too dependent on sales of natural resources.
The visit is timed to coincide with the Korea-Russia Dialogue (KRD) at St. Petersburg University, a forum co-hosted by Korea University and St. Petersburg University, with help and input from the private and public sectors of the two nations.