Following what appeared to be another concession from Seoul, Russia and South Korea have apparently settled their differences over a spy wrangle that had roiled bilateral relations for nearly a month. Following a meeting yesterday in Manila with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Chung-soo, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov announced that a Russian diplomat expelled from South Korea on July 8 would be allowed to return. Oleg Abramkin, required to leave that country in retaliation for Russia’s July 4 expulsion of South Korean diplomat Cho Sung-woo, will be allowed to remain in South Korea for the short period left in his original rotation. Primakov suggested that Moscow considered the South Korean action as a form of apology, and that both sides now considered the incident closed. Park has reportedly accepted an invitation to visit Moscow. (AP, Russian agencies, July 28)
If yesterday’s reports are accurate, the resolution of the South Korean-Russian spy row would appear to constitute a diplomatic victory for Moscow. Following the tit-for-tat expulsions, an irate Moscow then won Seoul’s agreement to withdraw an additional five diplomats from Russia. Like Abramkin and Cho Sung-woo, the five diplomats were reported to be representatives of their national intelligence community. South Korean authorities had presumed that the recall of the five would be enough to repair relations with Moscow, but at a meeting between Park and Primakov on July 26, Moscow apparently insisted also on Abramkin’s reinstatement. (See the Monitor, July 27) Yesterday’s developments suggest that Russia and South Korea will now work again at improving bilateral relations. Ties between the two countries have been on the upswing since Moscow and Seoul established diplomatic relations in 1990.
WHAT ELSE MIGHT “THE FOUR” HAVE IN MIND?