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S. Korea, Russia Seek Air Force Hotline

SEOUL – The top commanders of the South Korean and Russian militaries agreed to establish a hotline between their air forces to boost bilateral ties, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) here said Sept. 27.

Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, arrived in Seoul a day earlier for a three-day visit. The Russia military chief held talks with South Korean JCS Chairman Gen. Han Min-koo to discuss ways of improving bilateral cooperation, the JCS said in a statement.
“The visit by Makarov is expected to help foster a friendly relationship between the two countries’ armed forces and upgrade the relationship to a strategic partnership on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Seoul and Moscow,” the statement said.

Among the key topics are the establishment of an Air Force hotline, goodwill exchanges of military personnel, warships and aircraft, and the holding of joint search-and-rescue exercises on a regular basis, said JCS public affairs officer Lt. Col. Won Young-sup.

Russia’s integrated logistics support for Russian weapon systems operated by the South Korean military was also an agenda item, he said.

“The two sides shared the need to set up an Air Force hotline at an early date,” Won said. “Details will be discussed by working-level officials from the two countries.”

Currently, the navies from the two countries operate a naval hotline.

During the meeting with Han, Makarov expressed his condolences to the victims of the sinking of the Cheonan on March 26 in the western waters of the Korean Peninsula, JCS officials said.

The Russian general, however, gave no indication whether Moscow would make public the results of its own investigation of the ship sinking, they said.

In May, a Seoul-led multinational team of investigators determined that the Cheonan corvette was sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korea submarine. North Korea has denied any involvement in the naval disaster that killed 46 sailors.

In June, Russia sent a team of investigators for an independent probe into the sinking.

Makarov is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and pay his respects at the national cemetery in Seoul.

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