As I've previously noted, I've been rather busy lately. It's very time-consuming finding stories for the Los Angeles Times weeks or months before they appear in print. Like this one:
For newfound economic bedfellows South Korea and Russia, the biggest question over a proposed natural gas pipeline is a dark twist on the famous line from "Field of Dreams": If you build it, will North Korea mess with it?If this all sounds familiar, I said as much over two months ago...
South Korea President Lee Myung-bak this week met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg to discuss a project to pipe Siberian natural gas to the Korean peninsula.
The project faces numerous barriers beyond the region’s frigid cold, namely that North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il — whose regime would also be served by the pipeline that runs the length of the nation — could decide to use the project for political leverage, shutting down the flow of gas just to mess with Seoul.
South Korea has good reason to worry. In recent years, it has taken a harder line on sending aid to the starving masses in North Korea until that country ceases provocative acts such as two recent attacks against the South.
Kim, always the political chess player, could use the pipeline for payback of old scores with South Korea. "Look, the gas is flowing. Oops, now it’s not!"
Pyongyang notes that the high-tech pipeline would come equipped with a money spigot that will channel cash directly into Pyongyang vaults whenever the mainline is shut off.... and again six weeks ago when I described the pipeline as a "win-win" situation:
And by that he means that the Pyongyang regime wins if they cooperate and keep it running, and they win if they go all high-jinks brinksmanship on Seoul by shutting it off.But seriously, it is good to know that President Lee is soberly considering what all this means. A natural gas pipeline held hostage by the North could be a disaster for the South, causing Seoul to be held hostage to the whims of Kim Jong-il or his son (Ha! Like that will ever happen!) or the ruling junta that takes over after the Dear Leader kicks the bucket.
Is this a good idea? Do we really need a pipeline through frènemy* territory? South Korea makes loads of ships that could make regular runs of natural gas from Vladivostok to Pusan, so why not ship it through the East Sea (Sea of Japan) instead?
* Frènemy: In this case, not friend+enemy, but a portmanteau of frère and enemy, with that italicized word meaning brother. Hence the accent grave [`] in frènemy. Maybe I should write it frèrnemy to avoid any confusion.