North Korea and Russia are reportedly in talks regarding a vast project aimed at modernizing the former's power grid, at a cost of an estimated $20-30 billion US, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports.
"North Korea and Russia are discussing the issue of modernizing and rebuilding a wide network of electricity transmission lines in North Korea. The scope of the project is an estimated $20-30 billion US," an unnamed Chinese source said to be informed on North Korean affairs told the newspaper.
The source also explained that in exchange, "Russia will receive access to rare earth metals in North Korea." The price for the metals would be calculated on the basis of international prices.
According to Chosun Ilbo, North Korea is also looking to obtain excess power supply from generating stations in the the Russian Far East. At present, North Korea faces a massive deficit in power supplies and generating capacity, with its aging transmission infrastructure compounding the problem and resulting in the loss of up to 60-70 percent of the capacity that does exist, Rossiyaskaya Gazeta has explained.
The Chinese source noted that the potential infrastructure project could be structured along the same lines as the large-scale railway infrastructure modernization projects that are presently being carried out between the two countries.
Chosun Ilbo notes that North Korea has sent specialists to Russia for talks on the supply and distribution of electricity supplies following last October's trip to the Amur Region by Re Su-Yong, the North Korea's Foreign Minister.
Last year, Russia and North Korea held joint talks on improving economic and trade cooperation along a wide number of trajectories, including the use of North Korean workers on development projects in Russia's Far East, and the possibility of Russian companies' participating in the Kaesong Special Economic Zone.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes that information about the possible electricity power grid infrastructure project, together with anticipation about Kim Jong-un's possible visit to Moscow for the upcoming Victory Day celebrations in May, has led to a growth in the share prices of South Korean companies which may also participate in the project. North Korea watchers believe that Kim's visit may lead to the signing of several large-scale cooperation projects, including the construction of a gas pipeline, power lines, and more railway projects on the Korean Peninsula.