Russia May Build a Pipeline Through North Korea After Donald Trump's Kim Jong Un Meeting

Russian energy giant Gazprom is resuming talks about constructing a gas pipeline reaching through North Korea, following the conclusion of President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, officials said Friday.

The current situation on the Korean Peninsula, in which both North and South Korea pledged to pursue peace, has laid the groundwork for Russia to build a pipeline that would reach from Russia into South Korea via the hermit kingdom, according to officials from both Gazprom and South Korea. The pipeline would not deliver gas into North Korea.

"To date, the political situation has been somewhat different, and the South Korean side has asked Gazprom to resume the project, and a series of talks has been held on this issue, and these talks are continuing," Gazprom’s deputy CEO Vitaly Merkelov told reporters Friday during a meeting in South Korea. 

The comments suggest that Trump’s diplomacy may have helped the Russian gas giant—which has a strong connection to the Kremlin—launch a potentially lucrative project. In March, a distant cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin was appointed deputy chair of the company’s management board. But even without family ties, the majority of the company is state-owned.

Officials in Russia praised Trump’s efforts to normalize relations with North Korea and said they hoped Moscow could be involved in the process towards denuclearization. Trump held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim on Tuesday, during which both countries signed an agreement to work toward peace and denuclearization.

In the run-up to the meeting, Putin pledged that Russia would help the peace effort along in any way possible, noting that Russia could play a big role in helping North Korea rebuild economically after years of isolation and international sanctions.

The lifting of international sanctions on North Korea could aid Russia’s economy, too. Russia was home to one of the largest contingents of North Korean workers, but the country started sending some of those laborers home after the United Nations Security Council passed a new resolution last December. North Korean laborers, however, play a key role in Russia’s construction industry, particularly in the country’s far east.

Reports in December suggested that Russia may have been helping North Korea skirt international sanctions by supplying the country with oil. Both Russia and China were criticized for doing business with North Korea, potentially helping Pyongyang avoid sanctions.

Russia opposes the West’s tough stance on North Korea, alleging that it forced the country into a corner and made it accelerate its weapons program.

Still, it may be premature to launch business ventures based on the assumption that peace on the Korean Peninsula has been secured. Most experts and analysts agreed that Trump's agreement with North Korea was vague, lacked a clear plan of action and could lead to misunderstandings in the future.