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S. Korea, Russia to hold new round of talks on gas pipeline
SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Russia will hold a fresh round of talks later this month to discuss a Russian proposal to ship large amounts of Siberian natural gas to the South via a pipeline to be built across North Korea, an official said Thursday.

   The new talks between South Korea's state-run Korea Gas and Russian gas exporter Gazprom come as North Korea has reacted positively to the project that would carry huge geo-political implications, if realized.

   "A delegation of Russia's Gazprom recently visited North Korea and discussed the issue. And then, consultations between Gazprom and Korea Gas will be held this month," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae told reporters, declining to reveal the exact date for the Korea Gas-Gazprom meeting.

   "Based on the results of the consultations, I understand that there would be a new round of consultations between Russia and North Korea," Cho said.

   The spokesman said, however, no plan has been set for a trilateral meeting between Seoul, Pyongyang and Moscow.

   Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said last week that North Korea reacted "positively" to the natural-gas pipeline construction project. The North's reaction was conveyed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Kim during their bilateral talks on Aug. 8.

   "We view that this project will be a win-win deal for both Koreas, providing a considerable cash revenue on one hand for North Korea, through which the pipeline will run, and large amounts of natural gas for us, which will help bring down the price of imported natural gas on the other," Kim told reporters in Seoul after the bilateral talks.

   A preliminary deal on the project was signed in 2008 on the sidelines of a summit between visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Other than the inter-Korean pipeline, Korea Gas and Gazprom have discussed a costlier option of building an undersea pipeline.

   The deal calls for Gazprom to sell 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to Korea Gas for 30 years beginning in 2015. Other than the inter-Korean pipeline, Korea Gas and Gazprom have been discussing a costlier option of building an undersea pipeline.

   The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. Inter-Korean relations have been overshadowed by the North's military provocations and nuclear programs.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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