Pipeline project talks set for Nov.The two Koreas and Russia will begin discussing in November the construction of a pipeline through North Korea that will supply Russian natural gas to the South, the chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, Hong Joon-pyo, disclosed yesterday.
“The project had been agreed to by South Korea and Russia and also won agreement between the North and Russia,” Hong said in two speeches for Grand National Party members. “Now, the project will be realized after reaching agreement by working-level officials of the three countries.”
The director of the National Intelligence Service, Won Sei-hoon, told the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee earlier this month that North Korea had agreed to the pipeline project. The pipeline was also discussed at North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev last week.
Speaking unusually optimistically about the ambitious project, Hong said the pipeline was “a dream of President Lee Myung-bak since he was chief executive of Hyundai Engineering and Construction.”
Hong also said that Lee had pushed forward the project clandestinely since the beginning of his term.
But the Blue House refused to discuss the pipeline project. “I have no information about what Hong’s remarks mean,” said Park Jeong-ha, presidential spokesman.
The project, Hong said, would benefit both Koreas.
“North Korea will benefit from it by receiving the annual passage fee of $100 million,” Hong said, “higher than the earnings from Mount Kumgang tourism and from the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The Russian supply of gas will lower the price of natural gas in South Korea by 20 to 30 percent.”
Saying that the pipeline would open up a new horizon in inter-Korean relations, Hong added that another ambitious project to link the South with the Trans-Siberian Railway via North Korea would also see progress.
The railway project has been pushed forward since the Kim Dae-jung administration.
“Modernizing the North’s railways will cost $2.5 billion, and the South and Russia should think about jointly financing it,” Hong said.
By Ser Myo-ja [email@example.com]
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