A massive gas pipeline project involving Russia and the two Koreas could be on the agenda if South Korean President Lee Myung-bak holds summit talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later this year, sources said Thursday.
The ambitious project to build a transnational pipeline shipping Siberian natural gas to South Korea via the communist North has gained momentum in recent weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il discussed the project with Medvedev during his trip to Russia last month.
The two sides said later that they agreed to set up a joint committee to push for the project.
Russia's presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, Viktor Ishaev, also said that the North's leader agreed to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through its territory if Russia and South Korea sign a contract on the project, according to a news report.
"Summit talks between South Korea and Russia could be held once or twice within this year," a source said. "Though neither North Korea nor Russia proposed talks on the gas pipeline project, I think the issue would be a major topic if summit talks are held between South Korea and Russia."
Lee and Medvedev could meet in Hawaii on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum or in France on the margins of the Group of 20 major economies forum. Both multilateral summits are scheduled for November.
Earlier this week, Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, said that working-level officials of the two Koreas and Russia are expected to meet in November to discuss the gas pipeline project. Hong expressed hope that the project would help improve soured inter-Korean ties.
But officials said that there is a long way to go before the project materializes.
"The current situation is that only a little bit of progress has been made compared with the situation about 20 years ago when talk of building the gas pipeline first began," an official said. "We also have to further study the issue of forming a three-way forum or commission."