VLADIVOSTOK, June 5 (RIA Novosti) – North Korea will grant Russian firms access to its natural resources in exchange for imports and investments, Russia’s Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushko said Thursday.
The announcement came on the heels of a meeting in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok where Russian and Korean officials attended the sixth annual session of an intergovernmental commission on trade, economic and scientific cooperation.
“We discussed several projects on natural resources development, matters of geological prospecting and the opportunity for Korea to pay for imported [Russian] goods and [loans] in the framework of investment cooperation by granting Russian companies access to Korean mineral deposits,” Galushko said.
Earlier Russia agreed to write off 90 percent of Korea’s Soviet debt, which amounted to $10.94 billion as of September 17, 2012. The remaining ten percent ($1.09 billion) are to be paid off in a total of 40 installments over the next 20 years.
The minister added that Russia hoped to ramp up its trade turnover with Korea to $1 billion, up from the current $112 million.
“It is not much,” he pointed out, saying that a greater degree of Korea’s commitment to the existing bilateral projects could whip up sales to $400-500 million.
In January, a UK-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited said North Korea had the largest rare earth oxides deposits in the world, an amount of approximately 216 million tons.
Rare earth elements (REE) can be used in many sophisticated technologies, from cell phones to guided missiles.