President Lee Myung-bak and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said they will push ahead with a project to build a gas pipeline linking the two countries via North Korea. The two met in St. Petersburg.
Presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said the two leaders "agreed that the Russian natural gas pipeline project involving the North will bring economic benefits to all three countries."
Lee said the project could contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and called for the commercial terms to satisfy the needs of all parties.
Medvedev said Russia "will take full responsibility for the management of threats to the passage of the gas pipeline through North Korea. Russia will be responsible if the gas supply is cut off."
Nikolai Dubik, chief of state-run Russian gas company Gazprom's legal department, said at a Korea-Russia Dialogue forum Tuesday KOGAS and Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding on the timeline of project management in September, envisioning laying the pipeline from 2013 and supplying South Korea with gas from 2017.
"The two sides agreed to complete negotiations of the basic terms, including the price, by January. They also agreed to conclude a gas supply deal sometime between January and April next year," he said. "We plan to work out a blueprint between March next year and September 2013, and then start laying the pipeline to complete construction by December 2016."
But a presidential official said there has been no progress in talks on gas supply price or terms of construction since September. "Russia wants to create a conducive atmosphere, but we're cautious because there are still things to negotiate."
Lee told Medvedev it is true that South Korea is "very concerned" about the safety of the pipeline passing through the North given its military provocations last year. "We expect Russia to cooperate in finding solutions to North Korean issues, including denuclearization," he added.
The two leaders also called for comprehensive solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue for peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and agreed to cooperate to create a positive atmosphere for the resumption of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
They also pledged to work for the success of the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and the APEC Leaders' Summit in Vladivostok, as well as for expansion of bilateral economic ties.
The two leaders spoke at the closing ceremony of the annual Korea-Russia Dialogue, a civilian-led forum. Winding up his visit to Russia, Lee flew to Cannes Wednesday afternoon to attend the G20 summit.