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(LEAD) Cuba urged not to see normalizing ties with Seoul from zero-sum perspective: FM

All News 18:30 June 10, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS Yun's remarks in a separate interview with SBS in paras 13-19)

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top diplomat said Friday that he described the normalization of relations between Seoul and Havana as winning a new friend rather than losing the Caribbean state's longtime ally -- Pyongyang -- during recent talks with his Cuban counterpart.

In an interview with local news channel YTN, Seoul's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that he told Bruno Rodriguez that the normalization of bilateral ties should not be seen from the angle of a "zero-sum" game in which one side's gain means the other side's loss.

Yun's visit to Havana last Saturday marks the first time a South Korean foreign minister visited the island nation. During his two-day stay there, he attended a summit of the Association of Caribbean States and held talks with Rodriguez.

"(I said) it is a win-win development (should the two sides normalize their ties)," Yun said in the interview. "(I also told Rodriguez) never to look (at the bilateral relations) from a zero-sum perspective."

Expressing hopes for an increase in bilateral exchanges in the areas of business, culture and sports, the top diplomat noted that Seoul has been preparing to normalize diplomatic ties with Havana for the last three years.

Since Washington took an historic step earlier this year to end its Cold War-era enmity towards Havana and restore ties, opportunities have arisen for Seoul to mend fences with the communist island.

Cuba formally recognized South Korea in 1949, shortly after its independence from Japanese colonial rule, but their bilateral relations have effectively been cut off since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and formed an alliance with the North.

Touching on North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong's recent visit to Beijing, Yun pointed out that the visit was "very disappointing" to the Chinese government as Ri reaffirmed Pyongyang's stance to maintain the policy of simultaneously pursuing economic development and nuclear armament.

"We have heard (from Beijing authorities) that from China's perspective, (Ri's visit) was very disappointing," he said.

Seeking to maintain stability along its borders, a critical factor for its rise as a great power, China has warned against the North's nuclear ambitions and called on the two Koreas to deescalate tensions.

Stressing the importance of sanctions against the North, Yun said that international measures to censure the North should be maintained for a "considerably" long period of time so Pyongyang will feel the pinch and renounce its nuclear ambitions as Iran did.

Asked if a deepening rivalry between the U.S. and China would have a negative impact on their joint efforts to rein in North Korea, Yun highlighted that the North's nuclear issue is an area where the two major powers have maintained a "shared understanding."

In a separate interview with local broadcaster SBS, Yun raised pressure on Beijing to stop Chinese fishing boats from operating in South Korean waters, stressing that what matters is the "Chinese government's will."

"Chinese fishing boats are, in a sense, exploiting the situation in which South Korean fishing boats cannot operate in sensitive waters due to security concerns," Yun said.

The minister noted that in some three weeks, Seoul and Beijing will hold their regular talks over the issue of illegal fishing. The two nations have held such talks twice a year since 2012.

Asked about the possibility of President Park Geun-hye's potential visit to Moscow this year, Yun said he is "ready" to discuss the issue should it be raised by Moscow during his upcoming visit to the country.

Yun plans to travel to the Russian capital on Sunday for a two-day trip and meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the following day.

Commenting on Russia's opposition to the U.S.' potential deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system to Korea, the foreign minister said that he would underscore the "defensive" nature of the anti-missile system.

"From the perspective of South Koreans and the government, it is an issue of survival," he said. "It is inappropriate to see the issue in the context of a major-power rivalry."

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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