Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 129

As expected, the South Korean Foreign Ministry today demanded an explanation from Moscow over events connected with the detainment and expulsion from Russia of Cho Sung-woo, a South Korean diplomat who was declared persona non grata by Moscow on July 6 for activities incompatible with his status. (See yesterday’s Monitor) The demand for an explanation, together with an official protest, was conveyed to Russia’s acting ambassador in Seoul, Valery Sukhin. A statement from the South Korean Foreign Ministry charged that the arrest and detainment of Cho, who was officially registered with Moscow as a diplomat, was a violation of the Vienna Convention. The statement also expressed regret over Russia’s decision to make the incident public and it said that South Korea reserved the right to take retaliatory measures after its investigation of the incident. Cho was ordered to leave Russia by today.(Reuter, Itar-Tass, July 6)

The most immediate diplomatic consequence of the spy incident was a decision by Moscow to put off a visit to South Korea by Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev that was to have begun on July 5. (Reuter, July 6) Sysuev, who was expected to meet with South Korea’s president and other high ranking government officials, was to have carried a message to South Korea from Russian President Yeltsin. The message, like the visit in general, was intended by Moscow to reflect warming relations between the two countries. (Russian agencies, June 10) It remains to be seen whether Cho’s expulsion will halt or reverse the diplomatic momentum that had been building between Russia and South Korea.

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian news sources suggested that the high-ranking Russian diplomat arrested for passing information to Cho was Valentin Moiseev, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s First Asian Department. If substantiated, the charge would be an embarrassment for the ministry. Moiseev is a long-time Korea specialist who has been involved in the recent diplomatic exchanges between Russia and South Korea. He has also served as a spokesman for the ministry in informing the Russia media about developments in that sphere. Moiseev reportedly met often and openly with Cho. Moiseev is currently being detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service and will reportedly be charged within the next seven days. If convicted of treason, he faces a period of imprisonment of up to twenty years. (Russian agencies, July 6)