Russia-Korea Pipeline Still Facing Hurdles

Russia-Korea Pipeline Still Facing Hurdles
Russia-Korea Pipeline Still Facing Hurdles

The chances of a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea through the territory of North Korea—a decade-old idea that was on hold due to North Korea’s hostilities—have now risen with the recent rapprochement between the North and South, but political and economic hurdles to the project remain.

South Korea’s state-run Korea Gas Corp and Russian gas giant Gazprom will carry out a joint pipeline study, Reuters reports, quoting South Korea’s energy ministry, Oil Price reported.

Resource-poor South Korea imports most of its energy and until recently it was the world’s second-biggest liquefied natural gas importer, before China surpassed it last year.

"Gazprom has resumed talks with South Korea to build the gas pipeline from Russia’s Far East to South Korea through North Korea," Vitaly Markelov, deputy chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee, said two weeks ago.

Gazprom proposed the delivery of 10 bcm of natural gas to the resource-poor and import-dependent South Korea by pipeline, but its route must pass through the territory of North Korea. Russia and South Korea signed a “roadmap” in 2011, but have not advanced beyond that, due to the tense regional situation. At the end of March, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the idea of moving the gas through North Korea could be revived if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula improved.

Despite the recent rapprochement, critics to a Trans-Korea pipeline point out several obstacles facing the project. One is that Russia has often been seen as using gas supplies as a political tool. Another is that both North Korea and Russia are under US sanctions, to various degrees, which makes looking for financing and partners somewhat difficult.

A third point made by the project’s critics is that it would be safer for South Korea to continue importing LNG, especially from the US that is boosting LNG exports.



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