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Cooling leads to the Arctic

The worsening of relations with the DPRK increases South Korea's interest in the Northern Sea Route

Despite the aggravation of the political situation on the Korean peninsula, Russia does not lose hope for the participation of the Republic of Korea in the transport project Hasan-Rajin (DPRK). South Korean VEF guests do not refuse this idea, but they preferred to make more loud statements on the development of the Northern Sea Route.

Cooling leads to the Arctic
Minister for Development of the Far East Alexander Galushka at a press conference devoted to the results of the third Eastern Economic Forum reminded that the operator of the Hasan-Rajin project is the Russo-North Korean company RasonConTrans, established by the Russian Railways Trade House (67%) and the port of Rajin (33%). "When initially such a structure was formed, all parties proceeded from the fact that in 67 percent of the Russian side 33 percent is expected by the South Korean side. While the South Korean side for all four years considers profitability. We hope that they will count it, and we will not talk about tripartite projects, but we will proceed to the practical implementation of such projects on the Korean peninsula, "said Alexander Galushka.

At 2008-2014, Russian Railways reconstructed the 54-kilometer section of the railway from the Russian crossing point Khasan to the North Korean port of Rajin (the company invested 8,3 billion rubles in modernization) and built a reloading marine terminal. The capacity of the infrastructure is designed to transport 5 million tons of cargo annually.

In 2016, 1,5 million tons were delivered to Rajin. The planned volume for this year is about 2,4 million tons. According to the data of the Far Eastern Railway, for eight months a day, more than the same amount of cars passed through the border crossing with North Korea last year period. Add, UN-imposed sanctions against North Korea, conducting missile tests, at the insistence of Russia did not touch the Hassan-Rajin project.

Now through the North Korean port transit of Russian coal to China is carried out. Although for some time, export supplies were also going to the Republic of Korea. It was also assumed that the South Korean side will become a full-fledged third party to the consortium. Moreover, it was initially thought that the modernization of the Hasan-Rajin site would begin the solution of such a global task as the creation of a Trans-Korean highway and the subsequent access to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

However, Seoul turned its plans. Representatives of South Korea noted that all parties interested in the development of transport along the Hassan-Rajin line should have a common goal and a common will. “The Republic of Korea, as a potential participant, has such a will, but so far we see various events, in particular, related to the testing of missiles and nuclear weapons in the DPRK. The South Korean government and our companies are closely monitoring the course of these events. We believe that the Russian side should participate in the peace process and make efforts to convince North Korea to change its policy, ”said the president of the Korean Institute of International Economic Policy Taek Kyn Jeon. 

However, according to Alexander Galushki, the statement of the President of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Moon Zhe In, at the Third Eastern Economic Forum gives some hope. "I would like the Korean railway through North Korea to be connected to the Transsib, and on the train that would depart from Pusan, one could reach Europe. And that Russian gas through North Korea through the pipeline could be delivered to our country. I want to see the future in this way, "said Mun Zhe Ying.

On the possibility of cooperation with North Korean counterparts at the WEF and the president of the port of Busan E-chon Wu. "If we use Rajin and other Russian ports, this will make it possible to use the transport infrastructure of this region more efficiently and develop new routes that are more economical," E-chon Wu said.

However, no contact with the South Korean delegates with the North Korean side (representatives of the DPRK were among the guests at the forum) was not implied in the WEF. And the guests from South Korea, talking about the prospects of transit traffic, stressed the development of the Northern Sea Route. According to Moon Zhe Ying, due to the use of NSR time, transportation costs are reduced by one third compared to the Southern route through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.

"Is not the development of the Northern Sea Route inspiring us? If the port of Zarubino is developed on the basis of Korean shipbuilding technologies, the Northern Sea Route will become a truly new Silk Road for opening a new era of energy, "the President of the Republic of Korea stated.

Of course, Seoul's interest in the alternative transcontinental route is also linked with the diversification of the shipbuilding industry. In August of this year, the icebreaker tanker Christophe de Margerie set a record of passing the NSR. The ship did it for 6,5 days, and all the way from Norway to South Korea took 22 days. Through the Suez Canal, this would take at least a month. At the same time, a tanker built on a special project at the South Korean shipyard Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering, followed the entire Arctic route without escorting the icebreaker.

According to Moon Zhe Ying, the South Korean company received an order from Russia for the construction of 15 tankers-icebreakers for the transport of LNG. In addition, there is an order for the construction of a large tanker operating on liquefied natural gas. "This is a historic event that turns international maritime communications into environmentally friendly," the head of the Republic of Korea stressed, adding that cooperation with the Russian side would affect the Star Shipyard in the Big Stone.

“Cooperation in the field of shipbuilding and maritime logistics can become a new model of Russian-Korean economic relations, which will change the map of international maritime traffic,” said the President of the Republic of Korea.

However, the profitability of transportation along the Northern Sea Route also requires elaboration. Senior Vice President of Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd Sansik Lee believes that the NSR has a good potential in providing transit of containers. "But there is a big obstacle to this, it is objective. An icebreaker is required for the posting of container ships. And this is an additional cost of transportation, "the manager said.
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