Russia’s energy major Gazprom has resumed talks with Seoul over the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia 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,” said Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee Vitaly Markelov.
The project to unite the Korean Peninsula with a gas pipeline has been discussed for a long time, but official talks started in 2011. The negotiations were frozen after relations between Seoul and Pyongyang deteriorated.
In March, Seoul announced that it is ready to resume the project. According to South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha “if the North participates in talks on Northeast Asia energy cooperation, it would serve as a catalyst that helps ease geopolitical tensions in the region.”
Energy-hungry South Korea is currently forced to buy more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments. If the pipeline is built, it would halve the costs of gas coming to the country, analysts have estimated.
South Korea’s only land border is with North Korea. In the past, Seoul has been concerned that, if the pipeline is built, Pyongyang could employ blackmail tactics or even block the transit.
South Korea is interested in buying 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russia. At the moment, it already buys about 1.5 billion from Russia’s Arctic LNG plant in Yamal. The pipeline, if implemented, will be 1,100km long, of which 700 km should pass through North Korean territory. The project cost was estimated at $ 2.5 billion back in 2011.
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