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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora