North urged to join Seoul-Moscow gas pipeline project

April 27, 2009 - 0:0

South Korea’s joint project with Russia to construct a gas pipeline via North Korea will provide a bonanza to the North, President Lee Myung-bak said Saturday, urging it to return to multi-nation dialogue on its nuclear development.

Lee made the remarks during a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who visited Seoul after a two-day trip to Pyongyang.
“Inter-Korean relations will improve through various economic exchange programs, including the planned Seoul-Moscow project to build a gas pipeline through North Korean territory,” Lee said. “Such a program will help North Korea become a member of the international community and ease its financial problems. We can guarantee a considerable amount of money for the North if it participates in the project.”
Lee asked for Russia’s help in persuading the North to allow the construction of the gas pipeline, the centerpiece of Seoul-Moscow economic cooperation, and accept international calls to drop its nuclear program.
Minister Lavrov said it’s not easy to persuade North Korea but that Russia will do its utmost to help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolve the nuclear issue, the presidential office said.
At a summit between Lee and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow last September, Russia agreed to ship its natural gas to South Korea through a pipeline via North Korea starting in 2015 on condition that it persuades the North to join the project.
Under the contract signed between Korea Gas Corp. and Russia’s Gazprom, the Russian side is to send at least 7.5 million tons of natural gas annually for a period of 30 years through the pipeline running from Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, to South Korea.
The six-party nuclear talks have been stalled since late last year over how to verify North Korea’s past nuclear activities, but Pyongyang earlier this month said it will boycott the nuclear negotiations following the U.N. Security Council’s issuance of a statement condemning Pyongyang for its launch of a long-range rocket.
The U.N. sanctions committee blacklisted three North Korean firms, including a bank, on suspicion of proliferation activities Saturday.
Lavrov said Russia had made a proposal to the North to launch a rocket on behalf of its communist ally but the North rejected the offer.
“Russia, too, opposed the North’s firing of a long-range rocket,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by a Cheong Wa Dae spokesman. “We will make efforts to help resume the nuclear talks at an early date.”
However, Lavrov opposed sanctions on North Korea, saying the North is like an “isolated fortress” and that the countries involved in the nuclear talks should avoid an emotional response to the rocket launch, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.