South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for stepped up efforts to further improve his country's relationship with Russia on Tuesday, also expressing hope for the countries to sign a free trade agreement to enhance their economic ties.
Moon insisted increased cooperation between the two countries may be crucial to establishing lasting peace in the region.
"Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in September 1990, South Korea and Russia have continued to expand their cooperation in various areas, such as the economic, diplomatic and cultural sectors. Trade between the two countries has enjoyed astonishing growth," the South Korean president said in a written interview with TASS Russian News Agency.
The new South Korean president is scheduled to head to Russia's Vladivostok on Wednesday for a regional forum known as the Eastern Economic Forum. He is also set to hold bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Moon noted bilateral trade between Seoul and Moscow has jumped more than 135 times from US$190 million in 1992 to $25.8 billion in 2014, while the exchange of people between the two spiked from around 30,000 in 1990 to 440,000 last year.
"I believe our two nations must move forward from now to have a much greater dream. We must seek cooperation projects aimed at ensuring peace and prosperity not only on the Korean Peninsula and the Far East, but also in Northeast Asia and Eurasia," he said, according to a copy of the written interview released by his presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
The South Korean leader proposed the joint development of new shipping routes through the Arctic, and connecting the countries' railways to connect South and North Korea to Russia and Europe.
"It may take time, with many problems, such as the North Korean nuclear issue, that need to be resolved, but it is a path we must take, and I am convinced it will be a path that will serve the interests of not only South Korea and Russia, but also the world," he said.
Moon's trip to Russia follows North Korea's latest and sixth nuclear test staged Sunday.
He said the nuclear test was a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but reaffirmed his commitment to the peaceful resolution of the issue.
"The situation is frustrating and difficult, but our government will consistently move forward its policy of realizing peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula with patience and a long-term perspective."
"We do not seek to topple the North Korean regime or seek unification by absorption. We seek to form an economic community where the South and the North will co-prosper and this will also contribute to the development of the Russian Far East," he said. (Yonhap News)