Russia’s fleet of icebreakers and Arctic capable ships have a unique ability to transport goods from Northern Europe to East Asia. During the Eastern Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in about the possibility of a free trade agreement between Seoul and the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union.
During conversations in which the South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke enthusiastically of Russia proposals to enhance trilateral cooperation between the two Korean states and Russia. Putin and Moon also discussed the possibility of Russia shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) to energy hungry South Korea.
While pipeline gas is almost always a cheaper option than shipments of liquefied natural gas, because no gas pipeline yet exists connecting South Korea to a gas producer (Russia for example), LNG remains the most viable option for Seoul. That being said, the possibility of a Russian built pipeline into South Korea is possible, but this will take time to build. Furthermore, such a project could only happen with the consent of North Korea, something which may happen but not immediately as Pyongyang’s representatives in Russia indicated yesterday.
Because of this, South Korea needs LNG shipments and Russia looks to make a deal to ship LNG to South Korea and other Asia-Pacific nations in need of supplies.
Speaking at Zvezda shipyard in the Pacific coast town of Bolshoy Kamen, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated,
“I want to congratulate you on this great new accomplishment — the laying of four high ice class supply vessels. They will be made (to fulfill the) order of (Russian energy giant) Rosneft and will strengthen the capacity of the company and of the entire domestic fuel and energy sector, will promote the development of the Northern Sea Route, an extremely important project for the whole country… And not just for the country… Almost all countries in the (Asia-Pacific) region are showing interest in it”.
In addition to energy supplies, regular shipping routes over the Arctic could help connect East Asia through Eurasia to North Europe, thus creating a new route for the expedited shipment of assorted goods across one of the world’s key trading routes.
In recent months, China has also expressed interests in utilising Russia’s arctic shipping routes in conjunction with One Belt–One Road.
Russia’s technological and seafaring mastery of icy waters holds an important key to expanding trade between Asia and Europe and President Putin is at the forefront of spearheading such initiatives both from a technological and political perspective.