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Outcomes of Kim-Putin summit

Posted February. 28, 2001 11:54,   


We welcome the joint statement made by President Kim Dae-Jung and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit talks Tuesday on weapons of mass destruction. The statement said the two countries reaffirmed their intention to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery and were in favor of eventually abolishing them.

The statement also said they agreed that the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 was the cornerstone of strategic stability and an important framework for international efforts to reduce nuclear weapons and stop nuclear proliferation.

Officials of the Seoul government said these passages were included in the joint statement at Russia`s request. The statement`s openness to various interpretations may invite some dissent from the United States.

The ABM Treaty was concluded to forestall nuclear war by introducing a ``balance of terror`` that would assure the mutual destruction of the two Cold War adversaries in the event of a nuclear attack. The agreement limited both Washington and Moscow to one antiballistic missile base each. It was meant to keep the signatories from erecting nationwide antiballistic missile defense systems. The plan by the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush for a national missile defense is considered to breach the accord.

On this score, the reference in the statement to Korean and Russian efforts to preserve and strengthen the ABM Treaty is expected to spawn a controversy. Pointing out that Washington still adheres to the ABM treaty, the two sides warned against any misunderstanding of the statement, which they described as a declaration of principle. Some analysts said the Seoul government showed its disapproval in a roundabout way of U.S. plans to build a national missile defense system.

Rep. Chun Yong-Taek, who was the first defense minister of the present government, and incumbent Defense Minister Cho Seong-Tae earlier said that it would be unrealistic for South Korea to join a theater missile defense system, which would be an extension of a national missile defense, as it could create new military tensions in Northeast Asia, including Korea.

As expected, substantive and concrete measures on issues like rapprochement on the Korean peninsula and Korean-Russo economic cooperation were the key outcomes of the Seoul summit. The Seoul government was reassured of solid Russian support for its engagement policy with North Korea.

Groundwork was laid for accelerated joint economic endeavors among Seoul, Moscow and Pyongyang as well as between South Korea and Russia alone. General agreement was reached on developing an industrial estate for Korean business in Nakhodka, exploring a gas field in Irkutsk and linking a proposed Trans-Korean railway with the Trans-Siberian railroad. The meeting between the two leaders is expected to provide fresh momentum for bilateral economic relations, which have slowed in recent years.

Yun Seung-Mo ysmo@donga.com