RUSSIAN FOREIGN Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed Moscow’s support for Thailand and Asean’s efforts to pursue a Code of Conduct regarding the contentious South China Sea, as well as the United Nations’ resolution on North Korea, during his visit to Thailand yesterday.
Lavrov came to the Kingdom on Wednesday after attending a Russia-Asean ministerial meeting in Manila.
In Bangkok, he met with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai a day after leaving Manila.
Asean meetings in the Philippines last week succeeded in producing a framework for the establishment of the code of conduct.
Members of Asean have been at loggerheads with China over territorial disputes for decades. All sides are in the process of formulating a legally binding document to regulate the behaviour of countries in the sea, since conflicting parties have built facilities on contested islands and land features.
Thailand is a non-claimant in sea disputes, but a close observer due to the regional implications. However, the Kingdom has only addressed the issue via Asean mechanisms.
Lavrov also supported the denuclearisation of North Korea, including UN Security Council Resolution 2371 released on Saturday, which sanctions North Korean exports and sources of revenues overseas, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks.
On Tuesday, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson also visited Thailand and asked the government to put more effort into helping Washington pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions. Tillerson would like Thailand to crack down on North Korean companies that had fronts in Thailand. However, Prayut insisted that his government would not do anything exceeding the requirements of the UN resolution.
Lavrov’s visit, however, was mostly intended to promote bilateral ties on the occasion of their 120th anniversary this year.
His talks with Thai officials included economic aspects, with Thailand and Russia agreeing to increase bilateral trade by a factor of five from the current volume of US$2 billion (Bt66.5 billion) to $10 billion, according to Deputy Government Spokes-person Lt-General Werachon Sukondhapatipak.
Prayut invited the Russian private sector to invest in key industries and the Eastern Economic Corridor as well as an aircraft maintenance centre in Thailand, Werachon said.
Officials also discussed a push for a free trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which comprises more than 180 million people with a total estimated GDP of $4.47 trillion in 2016.
Russia and Belarus are among five Eurasian countries that have supported the FTA.
Neither Thai nor Russia officials said yesterday’s talks touched on military cooperation, but Russia has been a major source of military hardware since the ruling junta came into power in 2014.