Russia may supply natural gas to North Korea

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Russia may supply natural gas to North Korea

Natural gas from Russia’s Sakhalin Island may soon be supplied to North Korea via the Khasan to Rajin route, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

The deal may be clinched when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un travels to Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War II victory over Nazi Germany on May 9.

In January, Kim accepted Moscow’s invitation to a Victory Day ceremony that is expected to be attended by over two dozen world leaders, and he is expected to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During the visit, the first overseas trip by the North Korean leader since he took office in 2011, Kim and Putin are expected to negotiate an agreement on a pipeline natural gas (PNG) project that will connect Vladivostok and Khasan to North Korea’s sea port of Rajin, said a key government official in Seoul on Friday.

In September 2011, Russia launched its Sakhalin?Khabarovsk?Vladivostok natural gas pipeline.

“When the pipeline is connected, North Korea can build a gas power plant to partly alleviate its electric power shortage,” the source told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Factory and businesses that have been idled can partly return to normal operation.”

Ri Yong-nam, a North Korean minister of external economic relations, visited Moscow in February and went to Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East.

The official said that Ri examined the natural gas pipeline situation there ahead of the Russia-North Korea leaders’ summit.

The natural gas pipeline project gained momentum last May after Putin wrote off 90 percent of North Korea’s debt that amounted to some $11 billion.

Russia is also expected to develop North Korea’s mineral resources.

Russia expert Kim Seok-hwan, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said, “Through the Sakhalin gas, North Korea hopes to resume normal operation of its factories and businesses, and Russia can also create a new energy market.”

The Choson Sinbo, a pro-North newspaper in Japan, reported in June 2014 that following the Rajin-Khasan railway project, the gas pipeline construction project was gaining momentum.

The Khasan-Rajin railway is the product of a Russia-North Korea venture started in 2008. Railway construction and the port renovation were completed in September.

BY KO SOO-SUK, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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