Gazprom Officials to Visit S. Korea


Officials from Russian energy giant Gazprom will visit South Korea to discuss the gas pipeline project recently agreed by Russian and North Korean leaders, a report said Sunday.

Yonhap news agency cited Seoul officials as saying that representatives from the world's top gas firm will meet with their counterparts at the state-run Korea Gas Corp. this month to discuss technical details of the project.

"We know that the Gazprom officials will visit this week or the week after," Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government official as saying.

"We will first hear the Russians' explanations since we... don't have exact details of discussions."

During a rare summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on August 24, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il said he would allow the transit of a gas pipeline through the North to the capitalist South.

Hong Joon-Pyo, the leader of the South's ruling conservative Grand National Party, said last week that the two Koreas and Russia will hold trilateral negotiations on the project in November.

The gas link would provide Russia with broader access to the booming South Korean energy market and give the impoverished North a chance to earn hard currency worth tens of millions of dollars in handling fees, analysts said.

South Korea is the world's second-largest buyer of liquefied natural gas after Japan, importing over 32 million tons in 2010.

The agreement came as the isolated North has stepped up calls for more aid and efforts to revive its tattered economy.

International aid dwindled due to global irritation over its nuclear weapons programs and tensions with the South.

Cross-border ties sank to their lowest ebb after Seoul blamed Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships in March 2010, with the loss of 46 lives.

The North denied the charge but went on to shell a border island that left four South Koreans dead last November, prompting Seoul to cut most cross-border trades and aid.

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