UNITED NATIONS -- The Soviet Union obliterated two of the remaining remnants of the diplomatic divisions of the Cold War yesterday by establishing full diplomatic relations with South Korea and restoring consular ties with Israel.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze hammered out the details of the agreements in back-to-back meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Ho Joong in the offices of the U.N. Security Council president.
By upgrading its relations with two staunch American allies, the Soviet Union stole a march on the United States, which Saturday held its first high-level talks with the Soviet Union's ally, Vietnam, in more than 15 years but stopped far short of establishing diplomatic ties.
"As of today, full diplomatic relations are in place between the Republic of Korea and the Soviet Union," Mr. Shevardnadze told reporters with Mr. Choi at his side. "I think it is a normal, logical process."
A joint communique said that Moscow and Seoul would exchange ambassadors Jan. 1.
Mr. Shevardnadze said that in addition to establishing consular relations with Israel, he and Mr. Levy agreed to meet regularly, perhaps clearing the way to the establishment of full diplomatic relations later.
Ever since the Korean peninsula was divided in 1945 into Communist-ruled North Korea and anti-Communist South Korea, the Soviet Union has maintained friendly ties only with the regime in the north.
Mr. Shevardnadze said that the Soviet Union's decision to establish relations with Seoul would not change the Soviet relationship with the North Korean government in Pyongyang. Mr. Choi added, "We hope that the Soviet Union will continue to have good relations with North Korea."
Nevertheless, the action is a dramatic setback to North Korea's Stalinist-style government and its aging leader, Kim Il Sung.
It leaves China as North Korea's only remaining patron.
The Soviet Union and Israel broke diplomatic relations during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, when the Soviet Union sided with the Arabs. Paradoxically, the Soviet-Israeli chill lasted for more than a decade after Egypt, which fielded the largest Arab army in the war, established diplomatic relations with Israel.
Contacts between the Soviet Union and Israel began to ease in 1987, when the Soviets posted a delegation in Tel Aviv that operated through the Finnish Embassy. A year later, Israel established a mission in Moscow under the auspices of the Netherlands Embassy.
The action chips away at the world of the Cold War in which the United States and the Soviet Union led rival camps. Moscow's decision to establish relations with South Korea came just three days after North Korea proposed opening talks with Japan in November to establish diplomatic ties.
North Korea, aided by Chinese troops, fought a bitter war with South Korea and its allies, including the United States, from 1950 to 1953. The dividing line between the two Koreas remains one of the tensest borders in the world, now that the Berlin Wall has fallen and East-West hostility in Europe is virtually at an end.
Mr. Choi said he hoped that both South Korea and North Korea would soon be admitted to the United Nations. The rival regimes now have only observer status there.
Mr. Choi said that the prime ministers of the two Koreas would meet in Pyongyang Oct. 16. The talks would be a follow-up to a meeting between the prime ministers in Seoul earlier in September which marked the highest-level political contact since the peninsula was divided at the end of World War II.
Mr. Choi said he and Mr. Shevardnadze agreed that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and South Korean President Roh Tae Woo would exchange visits soon, although no date has been set.