알렉산드르 갈루슈카 러시아 극동개발부 장관은 'VOA'와의 이메일 인터뷰에서 북한과의 '라진-하산 사업'의 확대 의지를 밝혔습니다. 다음은 영문 인터뷰 전문입니다.

Q: I understand that you and Minister for Foreign Economic Affairs of the DPRK Ri Ryong Nam signed an agreement on economic cooperation. What are the highlights of the agreement? Would you elaborate on the ideas of “advancing socio-economic development” with North Korea and “extra-territorial model” for trilateral cooperation between Russia and two Koreas?

A: Minister for Foreign Economic Affairs of the DPRK Ri Ryong Nam and I are Co-Chairmen of Intergovernmental Commission for Trade-Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the DPRK. This was our fourth meeting in the last calendar year. During the meetings, we held substantive, detailed and involved discussions of urgent issues of bilateral (Russia – DPRK) cooperation and implementation of trilateral (Russia - North Korea - Republic of Korea) projects on the Korean Peninsula. As the result of the meetings, relevant documents have been signed. 

Our cooperation resulted in the following:

- Settlement of the DPRK’s debt to the former Soviet Union of approximately $10 billion;

- Development of a fundamentally new model of interaction, which can be described as “Russia will provide investments and supplies in exchange for the access to the natural resources of the DPRK”.

- We agreed upon the immediate goal to increase bilateral trade volume to $ 1 billion by focusing on the most important projects.

- Russia and DPRK agreed to use Russian roubles as the currency of transfers of payments between the two states.

I would like to emphasize that today the development of trade-economic relations between our countries is based solely on the principles of mutual benefits and economic expediency. In the long term our focus is on initiatives and projects of business. This is the key difference of the current period from the previous ones.

Previously relied upon Soviet paternalistic models of cooperation are out of question.

Q: Regarding RAO Energy System's project of supplying electricity to Rason SEZ in North Korea, I wonder if the financing has been discussed with the North Korean side. How are you going to finance the project? Is there any plan for North Korea to contribute to the financing? Do you envision South Korea's participation?

A: Modern competitive companies are the potential tenants of the special economic zone in Rason. As the companies realize their development projects, their demand for electricity will increase. This project will allow this demand to be satisfied.

In regards to the South Korean companies, we are expecting them to participate in this project.Moreover, we already have an interested partner - K-Water. It has come forward with the initiative that was welcomed, and respective memorandum with the Russian company RusHydro has already been signed. The North Korean side also agrees with the participation of the South Korean partners.

Q: I understand Russia wants South Korea to join the Khasan-Rajin Project, including purchasing some stakes in the joint venture established for the project. What are the latest discussions with South Korea on this project? What is your plan to attract South Korean investment to the project in North Korea when Russian economy is suffering from weakened Ruble, which may have impact on the value of the Russian stakes in the joint venture?

A: The Khasan-Rajin Project is carried out by Russian Railways (RZD) in cooperation with the North Korean partners. As such, 54km of a railway line has been reconstructed and Port Rajin has been renovated. At the end of 2014 a test shipment of coal from Russia to Port Rajin was conducted by rail, and then by the sea to the South Korean port of Usan. Russian business community is interested in the project. Confirmed cargo capacity allows this project to develop a turnover of up to 1 million tons per year in the near future. All this is achieved by the efforts of both sides – Russia and the DPRK. At the same time, the South Korean companies are free to participate in this project. While both the Russian and North Korean sides welcome the participation of the South Korean partners, there will not be any pressure from either sides.

I should also note that the situation with the Russian ruble only increases the attractiveness of the project, as the value of Russian products in dollar equivalent becomes more competitive.

Q: So far, Russian coal is the only item that has been transported through Rajin to the South Korean port, Pohang. Has any other items been discussed with either North or South Korea? If so, what are they? I understand the Russian delegation recently visited Pusan, the largest port in South Korea, to discuss the trilateral cooperation. How successful was the discussion? Do you have any plan to have further discussion with the South Korean side on the trilateral shipment?

A: Usan was initially considered as a multimodal port. Currently this channel is used for the export of Russian coal, but the option to import other goods is elaborated. As for Pusan Port, the Russian delegation during its visit to the port had discussions on the participation of the South Korean companies in shipbuilding development projects in the Russian Far East.

Q: I understand a Russian joint venture in Pyongyang has started renovating North Korean railway. What is the current status of Project Pobeda? What are the latest discussions with North Korea on this project? How has the product sharing agreement been implemented? What challenges did you face in implementing the agreement and how are you going to find the solutions?

A: Project Pobeda on the renovation of the railroads in the DPRK is interesting for Russia as well as the DPRK. This is a practical example of realization of the new model of trade-economic cooperation with the DPRK, that implies the participation of Russian companies in implementation of infrastructure and other projects on the territory of the DPRK in exchange for the access to the North Korean mineral resources.

According to the signed agreement, over 20 years a group of Russian companies will reconstruct 3,5 thousand kilometers of the railway, as well as tunnels, bridges and station roads. Expenses of the Russian organizations will be covered by the supply of coal, rare-earth and non-ferrous metals and other resources from the DPRK.

The North Korean partners confirm their interest in this project by maintaining permanent contacts and effectively addressing all current issues. Russian companies are satisfied with the progress of the project.

Q: What is the Russian side’s plan for year 2015? How much of progress you want to see on Project Pobeda?

A: By the end of this year survey works related to the design and construction of railway on the section between stations Pyongyang and Nampo should be completed. Simultaneously, previously agreed upon works on the development of mineral deposits, including the rutile fields, should be launched.

Currently Russian companies are actively negotiating with the North Korean side on the exploration works to assess whether the DPRK deposits of minerals will provide the return on investment.

Project Pobeda is a real movement to achieve a bilateral agreement to increase the volume of trade between Russia and the DPRK to $ 1 billion in the near future.

Q: Mostovik is the only publicly known Russian investor for Project Pobeda. Has any other Russian company jointed the project yet? If so, who are they?

A: As this is a large project, new participants will be required. However, this is the prerogative of the business to attract new members.

Q: Russia and North Korea have discussed a wide range of issues on economic cooperation, especially during Minister Ri’s visit to Moscow. What are the biggest challenges do you expect in further advancing the cooperation? How far do you want to expand the cooperation with North Korea? What role is to be played by your Ministry in addressing the challenges?

A: We are interested in cooperation with the DPRK in the Russian Far East and on the Korean Peninsula. It should be stated that our North Korean counterparts are eager to fulfill every provision of our agreement. In case of unexpected, we work together to make corrections and find solutions. In general, we strive for our cooperation to open up the existing economic potential of our relations. In this regard, I would like to note that the Ministry for Development of The Russian Far East initiated the adoption of the law on the advanced development territories. We have developed a unique analytic base and efficient economic models that provide a comfortable environment for business investment, reduce risks and increase profitability.

On 28th of February, we held talks with the North Korean delegation led by Minister for Foreign Economic Affairs of the DPRK Ri Ryong Nam during its visit to Russia and achieved the agreement that Russia and the DPRK together would discuss the creation of advanced development zones in the Russian Far East and on the territory of the DPRK with the participation of the Russian Federation, the DPRK and South Korea. Such trilateral format, including the Russian Federation, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, can allow for efficient development of the advanced development zones.