South Korean Foreign Minister visits Moscow for N.Korean talks

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon was in Moscow on Tuesday for talks he suggested would focus on efforts to ensure North Korea keeps a pledge to start dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

At the start of a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Song said he hoped they would "exchange opinions on immediate and follow-up steps to develop strategic measures for the North Korean issue."

In an agreement reached Feb. 13 at talks involving six nations including Russia, North Korea said it would shut down its sole operating nuclear reactor within 60 days and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy aid and other incentives.

Representatives of the six nations are scheduled to meet again March 19 to gauge progress implementing terms of the agreement.

Lavrov said he and Song would discuss bilateral cooperation in addition to the North Korean nuclear issue. Song said bilateral ties were "developing very dynamically, and not only in the political and economic spheres, but also in energy resources and space cooperation."

Song was scheduled to meet later with the chief of President Vladimir Putin's Security Council, Igor Ivanov, the AP reports.

The Soviet Union was once a stalwart supporter of North Korea and a main donor, but bilateral ties withered after the 1991 Soviet breakup, and the volume of bilateral trade shrank rapidly. Putin, who has sought to deepen economic ties with former Soviet ideological allies, has moved to improve relations.

Song suggested the nuclear agreement could help increase trade between Russia and North Korea, which has isolated itself from the world, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The success of the six-nation talks "will have a positive effect not only on strengthening stability and security in East Asia, but also in the development of Russia's Far East and Siberia regions," ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying Monday.

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