06/06/2024, 16.54
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Putin woos Seoul, but refuses any dialogue with Tokyo

Speaking at a press briefing on the sidelines of the St Petersburg Forum, the Russian president said he "appreciates" South Korea’s position. Although Seoul joined Washington in imposing sanctions against Russia, it has not sent weapons to Ukraine. Putin also reiterated his intention to strengthen ties with Pyongyang. Conversely, he took a tough stance against Japan, saying that conditions are not in place to resume sovereignty talks over the Kuril Islands.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said he greatly appreciates South Korea's position of not directly supplying weapons to Ukraine, adding that Moscow is ready to restore relations with Seoul.

“Just like in our relations with Italy, we do not see any Russophobic stance when working with the South Korean government. Neither are there any weapons supplies to the conflict zone. We highly appreciate that,” said the Russian leader yesterday on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Puti’s remark created some surprise since relations between the two countries had cooled after South Korea decided to join the United States and imposed sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

"Today, unfortunately, certain problems have been created in many areas of our cooperation, which is a pity ... But this is not our choice. It is the choice of the (South) Korean leadership. The channel is open on our side, and we are ready," he said, acknowledging the military ties between the United States and South Korea.

"As for relations with North Korea . . . our neighbors, we will develop relations, whether someone likes it or not," he said, reiterating his intention to boost ties with Pyongyang.

With respect to North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, Putin suggested that the issue is unlikely to be resolved as long as Pyongyang feels it faces external threats.

Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang have grown considerably closer in recent years, to the point that Putin is considering a visit to North Korea.

In March, South Korea's Defense Ministry reported that North Korea had sent about 7,000 containers of ammunition and military equipment to Russia in 2023.

Even though Russia and North Korea have always denied arms transfers, Pyongyang has used the invasion of Ukraine to intensify missile tests, experts report. In exchange for military support, North Korea receives food and economic aid.

In late May, South Korea and Japan imposed sanctions against North Korean individuals and Russian ships for the arms trade between Russia and North Korea.

While Putin has shown some openness towards South Korea, he told Japanese media present at yesterday's meeting that conditions do not exist to resume talks over the sovereignty of the disputed Kuril Islands (which both countries claim since the end of World War II) because of Japan’s support for Ukraine.

Since the outbreak of the war, all negotiations have been suspended. Putin also said he would not hesitate to visit the four islands, reiterating that they are Russian territory.

The failure to resolve the dispute is the reason why Russia and Japan have not signed a post-war peace agreement.

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