President Roh Tae-woo said Monday that the establishment of diplomatic ties with Moscow signals an end to Cold War on the bitterly divided Korean peninsula and could lead to reunification in a decade.
The Soviet ties with South Korea were announced Sunday, the same day Moscow said it was upgrading relations with Israel to the consular level.Consular relations are a level below full diplomatic relations.
The announcement of formal Soviet-South Korean relations, made by the countries' foreign ministers in New York, is considered a major diplomatic blow to North Korea. There was no immediate comment from its Communist government.
Roh said the new ties between Moscow and Seoul will make it "impossible for North Korea alone to resist the tidal wave of change" sweeping the world.
North Korea had vigorously lobbied Moscow, long a major ally and arms provider, against establishing relations with South Korea.
But the Soviets are no longer able to afford extensive foreign aid and are eager for enhanced trade and economic ties with Seoul.
The formal establishment of ties culminates a two-year effort by Roh to develop trade and diplomatic ties with communist and socialist allies of North Korea in hopes of easing tension on the peninsula.
Sunday's move is also expected to give South Korea more leverage in its bid to join the United Nations as a full member separately from North Korea.
In his speech Monday, Roh said it was an opportunity for the rigid and totalitarian North to open its doors.
"Clearly, the North has reached the dead-end of its isolationist policy," Roh told 50,000 spectators at an Armed Forces Day review of troops. "Inter-Korean relations are thus approaching a major turning point."
"The Cold War structure on the Korean Peninsula has begun to change," he said. "It is becoming feasible to achieve peaceful unification before the present century is out."
The Koreas were divided at the end of World War II and fought the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.