Medvedev eyes major deals on Asia tour: Kremlin

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign a string of deals and promote cooperation between North and South Korea during a trip to Asia this week, a top Kremlin official said Tuesday.

Medvedev travels to South Korea and Japan to attend global political and economic summits but bilateral cooperation will also be at the heart of his four-day tour.

The talks with President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul to push closer bilateral ties and regional cooperation with North Korea will be part of Medvedev's official visit to South Korea where he will also attend a Group of Twenty (G20) summit.

Russia is keen to use its clout to help promote infrastructure projects involving South and North Korea, including the construction of an electricity transmission line between the two countries and a trans-Korean railroad, Medvedev's top foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko told reporters.

"During the talks the presidents would like to give additional impetus" to trilateral cooperation including the railroad project that has been on the drawing board for years, said Prikhodko.

"Direct support of the North Korean authorities will be very important here."

Medvedev, accompanied by top business figures like metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska, will oversee the signing of around 20 agreements in sectors ranging from financial services to transportation and agriculture.

They will include a preliminary gas supply deal between gas giant Gazprom and state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), a memorandum of intent between Russia's steel producer Mechel and Korean steel giant Posco and a cooperation agreement between Russia's Federal Grid Company and Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries.

"Moscow and Seoul are currently working to take bilateral cooperation to the level of strategic partnership," the Kremlin said in a statement, using a phrase it reserves for its close friends and allies.

The visit to South Korea will be followed by a trip to the Japanese port city of Yokohama where Medvedev will attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

He will attend the summit after he infuriated Tokyo this month by making the first trip by a Russian leader to one of four Pacific Kuril Islands at the heart of a territorial dispute.

But nevertheless, Russian company Ammony is expected to sign a 1-billion-dollar agreement with a consortium involving Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and China National Chemical Corporation to produce ammonia and methanol, the Kremlin said.

His visit to Asia comes as the Kremlin seeks to expand its global footprint and follows Medvedev's trips to Africa in 2009 and Latin America last spring.

© 2010 AFP

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