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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs