Kim Jong Il, head of North Korea, is in Siberia holding rare meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, reports the BBC.The meetings, the first since 2002, are being held in a remote Eastern military base. The itinerary has been kept mostly secret. However, some reports of the talks are being carefully released.
One important topic being discussed is the prospects for return to nuclear disarmament talks, stalled since 2009 — a spokesperson for Kim said “in the course of the talks North Korea will be ready to resolve the question of imposing a moratorium on tests and production of nuclear missile weapons,” reports The Telegraph.
The timing of the meeting and statement is interesting. Kim had long appeared unwilling to give up his nuclear programme — in many ways his only bargaining chip on the world stage.
Yet his chose of partner for the meeting may be telling. Other reports suggest that Medvedev is campaigning for a gas line to run through North Korea to supply South Korea and Japan. The pipeline has been in the works for years from the largely-government controlled country and senior Gazprom staff visited the North Korean country in July of this year.
The New York Times reports that the pipeline could be worth $500 million a year for the impoverished North.
Officially South Korea appears to be welcoming the idea, in the hope that the role might force some kind of stability in their Northern neighbour.
“Korea would prefer pipeline gas supplies. First, it’s cheaper. Second, implementation of a pipeline project would help improve relations with North Korea,” the South Korean ambassador to Russia, Lee Yun-ho, said in a recent interview with Kommersant.
However, there are some worries that the pipeline may work as another bargaining chip for Kim, giving him power over a key energy supply for the South.