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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid