Putin, Moon agree that Trump-Kim summit to help denuclearization

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed on Friday to support “efforts to establish complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula” following the U.S.-North Korea summit last week.

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A joint statement signed by the two leaders during a state visit by Moon to Russia was released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House. Moon arrived in Russia on Thursday, the first official visit by a South Korean president since 1999.

The Russian and South Korean leaders agreed that last week’s historic summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would contribute to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Putin and Moon agreed to “continue joint efforts to establish complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and secure permanent peace and stability on the peninsula and (in)Northeast Asia.”

Both Moscow and Seoul are hoping that reduced tensions with Pyongyang will open up opportunities for economic and infrastructure projects that would directly link South Korea with Russia through North Korea.

Those plans are currently blocked by international sanctions on North Korea which international leaders have said will not be lifted until North Korea makes significant moves to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Trump said on Thursday that a process of “total denuclearization ... has already started” in North Korea, but U.S. officials familiar with current intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile test sites said there was no evidence of new moves to dismantle any sites.

A number of countries, including South Korea and Russia, have nevertheless begun looking for ways to engage with North Korea economically should sanctions be lifted.

Putin and Moon agreed to joint research in the fields of electricity, gas and railways in order to advance cooperative projects between North Korea, Russia and South Korea.

Their statement said “large-scale infrastructure projects will contribute to Northeast Asia’s peace and prosperity.”

Railway projects were an area of common interest, the statement said, noting the development of a railway link between the Russian eastern border town of Khasan and the North Korean port of Rajin.

Putin and Moon also agreed to cooperate on joint research to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Korean Railway.

Moon invited Putin to South Korea at a convenient time, which Putin accepted, the statement said.

Reporting by Joyce Lee in SEOUL and Polina Nikolskaya in MOSCOW; Editing by Catherine Evans