South Korea's Moon Jae-in suggests Russian gas be piped to Koreas, Japan

Restoring inter-Korea railroads and linking them to trans-Siberian railways would enable overland transport from trade-dependent South Korea to Europe, said South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Restoring inter-Korea railroads and linking them to trans-Siberian railways would enable overland transport from trade-dependent South Korea to Europe, said South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

SEOUL (AFP) - New pipelines could be laid to bring Russian gas through North Korea to the South and even on to Japan following the diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, Seoul's leader suggested on Wednesday (June 20).

President Moon Jae-in was speaking to Russian news media before a three-day visit to Moscow starting on Thursday, with the presidential Blue House releasing the transcript.

Russia and South Korea agreed in 2008 to lay gas pipelines through the North to bring Russian natural gas to the South. But the project failed to take off because of tensions over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Restoring inter-Korea railroads and linking them to trans-Siberian railways would also enable overland transport from trade-dependent South Korea to Europe, Mr Moon added.

"This will bring huge economic benefits to the South and the North, as well as Russia," he said.

At the unprecedented summit between the North and the United States in Singapore last week, US President Donald Trump showed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a video showing the North transformed by economic growth.

The summit, Mr Moon said, had "succeeded beyond all expectations", although some analysts said little of substance was agreed.

In a joint statement afterwards, the North committed to work towards "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", without making an explicit commitment to give up its weapons.

The two rivals also agreed to establish new ties and work to build a "lasting and stable peace regime" on the Korean peninsula.

But Mr Moon said that "Chairman Kim has expressed his willingness to give up his nuclear arsenal and focus on economic build-up, should the North be guaranteed safety".

At earlier summits of his own with Mr Kim, Mr Moon added, the North Korean leader "turned out to be frank and straightforward and despite his age, maintained his composure" throughout their long talks.

South Korea must import the vast bulk of its oil and gas. But despite their geographical proximity, Russia is only its sixth-biggest supplier, providing just 5.5 per cent of total needs.