News / Europe

Russia, Two Koreas Renew Talks on Shared Gas Pipeline

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, second right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second left, walk during a meeting an a military garrison, outside Ulan-Ude, August 24, 2011
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, second right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second left, walk during a meeting an a military garrison, outside Ulan-Ude, August 24, 2011

Envoys from South and North Korea are expected to meet in Beijing on Wednesday.  It will be the latest attempt to get multinational talks about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program back up and running after a nearly three-year stalemate.  But, the North’s nuclear arsenal is not the only inter-Korean issue that has been grabbing attention lately.  There has been renewed enthusiasm for constructing a natural gas pipeline from Russia that would run across the Korean peninsula. 

Momentum gained

Talk of building a pipeline that would deliver Russian natural gas to South Korea by way of North Korea has been going on for decades.

But the project recently gained new momentum when North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il paid Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a visit in Siberia.

Footage aired on Russian television shows the two leaders shaking hands ahead of their summit last month.  Reports say both men agreed that construction of a gas pipeline should finally be realized.

Following that meeting, officials in South Korea’s energy sector made it clear that they too want to see the pipeline finally built.  

Last week, the president of South Korea’s state-run Korea Gas Corporation met with representatives of the Russian energy firm, Gazprom.  The agency says that the officials worked out a road map for future gas deliveries to South Korea.

Government estimates say the pipeline would cost $3.4 billion to construct.  But some analysts say, in the long run, it will pay off for South Korea.

Kang Hee-chan is an environmental and energy analyst at the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul.  

“Our gas demands continue to grow.  Most of the gas is from the shipping from Europe and West Asia.  Those options are very costly," Kang noted. "When we can get gas from Russia through North Korea, it’s more cost competitive.”

Shared pipeline not without risks

Despite those savings, current tensions on the Korean peninsula mean the benefits might not outweigh the risks.  

“In the long run, this is a very good project, its good both from the economic and political point of view," said Russia native Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Kookmin University. "However, in order to succeed it needs [a] stable climate of cooperation, exchanges and trust. Frankly I don’t see such climate coming anytime soon.”

Lankov says a shared natural gas pipeline would pose risks for all parties involved, but especially for South Korea.

He says Pyongyang could steal gas or even turn the pipeline off if inter-Korean relations sour. Lankov adds that Seoul would need to have a contingency plan to compensate for that loss if tensions rise.

Building public support

In a report this week to South Korea’s National Assembly, the ministry of knowledge economy said that it will consider all risks involved in doing business with North Korea.  The ministry added that, for the moment, there have been no discussions with Moscow or Pyongyang on the terms of a contract.  

But, already South Korean politicians are trying to build-up public support for the pipeline.

During an interview on Korean television earlier this month, President Lee Myung Bak said it is only a matter of time before the project begins.  

President Lee said that both Koreas are already talking with Russia separately about the pipeline.  He predicts that, at some point, all three countries will reach an agreement.  He says the project could proceed faster than expected and it will be a great business if it works out.

Analyst Andrei Lankov says many politicians here are trying to win support for the pipeline by promoting it as a step closer toward unification with North Korea.

He says that is just wishful thinking. “It’s a very usual type of official rhetoric in Korea.  All kinds of exchanges between the two Korean states is always described as something related to unification.  It’s convenient, it sells very well to the nationalistic Korean public, but let’s be frank, it has nothing to do with unification is just normal economic exchanges and nothing else,” Lankov said. 

Further talks between South Koran and Russia could occur later this year when Presidents Lee and Medvedev meet at the G-20 summit in Paris.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs