N. Korea supports Russia pipeline to South Korea: Medvedev

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North Korea supports a planned pipeline to carry Russian gas supplies to South Korea through the North, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday.

"As far as I understand, North Korea is interested in the implementation of such a trilateral project with the participation of Russia and South Korea," Medvedev said after a rare summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, praising the talks as "open, (and) substantive."

Medvedev said the proposed pipeline would stretch more than 1,700 kilometres (1,000 miles) and start up with volumes of up to 10 billion cubic metres per year.

The Russian leader said he has issued instructions for his government to work out the framework of a subsequent agreement that would be signed between Moscow and Pyongyang.

The deal would concern "the transit of gas across the territory of North Korea and accordingly the addition to this project of the Republic of Korea, considering that the main consumers are on its territory," Medvedev said.

Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom has been holding negotiations with the Stalinist state and sent a delegation to Pyongyang last month, the third round of talks held this year.

Russia, the world's largest natural gas producer, has been keen to expand its Asian sales and has been supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to booming South Korean market since the Sakhalin-2 project went online in the Pacific in 2009.

But most of the Sakhalin-2 gas is sent directly to Japan and Gazprom has struggled to come up with a cost-effective strategy of improving its South Korean presence because of the diplomatic isolation of the North.

© 2011 AFP

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