Russian energy giant Gazprom reportedly has revived talks with officials in Seoul on building a natural-gas pipeline to connect Moscow with North and South Korea.
"The political situation has changed, and the South Korean side has contacted Gazprom regarding the resumption of this project. A series of talks has been held, and these negotiations are continuing," Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee Vitaly Markelov was quoted as saying by RT.com, a Russian international television network and website funded by the Russian government.
The idea of building a pipe to carry natural gas from Russia’s Far East to South Korea has been around since the 1990s, Bloomberg has reported.
From 2008 to 2011, as Gazprom was building a pipeline as far as Vladivostok, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with North Korea and a framework agreement with Seoul’s Korea Gas Corp. to extend it south.
It went nowhere, primarily because of the politics surrounding North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's bid to build up his nuclear and missile programs. With North Korea’s relations with the U.S., Seoul, and China now on the mend, and South Korea trying to reduce its dependence on coal and nuclear power, the pipeline would seem an obvious piece of economic diplomacy.
The government in Seoul, at least, seems interested in bringing the proposal back to life.
“Should the security situation on the Korean Peninsula improve, we will be able to review the LNG project involving the two Koreas and Russia,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a regional energy conference at the end of March, according to the state-owned Yonhap News Agency.
Getting the North involved in such a project could “serve as a catalyst that helps ease geopolitical tensions in the region,” she said.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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