Gazprom mulls gas pipeline through North Korea

June 15 (UPI) — Russia could be collaborating with Seoul on the construction of a natural gas pipeline through North Korean territory, a Gazprom official said Friday.

South Korean officials hinted earlier this year that a thaw in tensions on the Korean Peninsula could open the door to the construction of a Russian gas pipeline through countries divided by the 38th Parallel.

Vitaly Markelov, the deputy CEO at Gazrpom, told reporters Friday the recent diplomatic events in Singapore could make it easier to move forward.

“To date, the political situation has been somewhat different, and the South Korean side has asked Gazprom to resume the project, and a series of talks has been held on this issue, and these talks are continuing,” he was quoted by Russia news agency Tass as saying.

Energy talks between Korea and Russia extend back at least a decade. Both sides signed agreements in 2009 to import liquefied natural gas from the Sakhalin facility. Gazprom and Korea Gas Corp signed a memorandum of understanding on natural gas supplies in 2008 and moved on exploration deals in 2009.

Russian energy company Gazprom announced in late 2011 that it signed a memorandum of understanding with North Korea to build a natural gas transmission system to the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea is one of the largest natural gas consumers in the world. If built, the pipeline has the potential to bring in more than $500 million each year in transit fees for the North Korean government, reports stated at the time.

U.S. President Donald Trump made a historic handshake this week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In a joint statement, both sides said the diplomatic outreach would lead to “the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium Kim Yong Nam at his office in Moscow. Putin said the détente was welcome and could lead to open doors in the North Korean economy.

“We are ready to continue this work and make all necessary efforts to establish ties, including in economic cooperation, together with you,” he said Thursday.