This article discusses about how important Rajin-Khasan Railway project is not only for both North and South Korea, but also for Russia, and why Russia continue to proceed the project even after the United States’ and the UN sanction to North Korea.
In the later 19th century, the idea of Trans-Korean railway crossing linked from the Trans-Siberian was initiated. However plans were suspended after the 1905 Russian-Japan War. In 2000, the idea was re-discussed by three nations, which is now called as the Rajin-Khasan Railway. Raijin is a city located in the north of North Korea, and Hasan is a border-city to North Korea. The project was invested $300 million by Russian Railways, and could be the largest Russian commercial and also political project with North Korea’s participation. A consortium of three South Korean companies – top steelmaker Posco, the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) and ship maker Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. – are involved in the project, which will see the soft coal transported to Rajin, North Korea, from the Russian border city of Khasan on a reconnected 54-kilometer (33-mile) railway before being shipped to South Korea. It is regarded as an important and beneficial project to all of three participants. Russia would gain the viewpoint that the nation works not only with North Korea, but also to both of two Korean governments. In additions, through coal supplies via Rajin-Hasan, local consumers in South Korea could save up to 15 percent in transportation costs. The project is expected to boost the regional economy through free trade and economic cooperation in the Eurasian bloc by reconnecting the railways that link both Koreas, China and Russia. Furthermore, maintaining a stable relationship with Russia does not only help a stability of domestic imports, but also to raise higher possibility for Russia to discuss about Six Party Talks with its alliance, North Korea. For North Korea, they will get an economic benefit through receiving a payment just for the cost of using the North Korean port.
The project has been paused from early January when Pyongyang successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. According to Lyudmila Zakharova, a Korean expert from the RAS Institute of Far East Studies, South Korea’s strong reaction to its northern neighbor’s satellite launch and nuclear tests makes it clear that Seoul will not return to the project at least until 2018. However, there is another response as well from Russian company RIA Novosti according to Sputnik news. “According to paragraph 29a of the UN Security Council resolution, the restrictions do not apply to Khasan-Rajin project focused on energy transit from Russia to third countries using the port of Rajin,” The company claims that as under the contracts, some 2.5 million tonnes of the Russian coal will be transported through the North Korean port in 2016-2017. According to Yoon, the foreign minister of South Korea, South Korea and Russia are likely to discuss other possible ways to proceed with the program, but by excluding the North as a stopover route from Russia to the South in order to keep pace with the United States’ new North Korea sanctions and to complement the U.N. Security Council’s resolution.
In conclusion, Accomplishing the project does not only benefit particularly one nation, but to all three participants. Russia would gain a positive reputation that the nation cooperates not only with its former alliance, North Korea, but also to South. North Korea would receive an income just by offering the route connected to South. In additions, for Pyongyang. it would confirm a closer cooperation with an alternative partner, Russia. South Korea will gain an economic benefit through the first project connecting the nation to Europe, and also accomplishing the project means, it will promote the possibility to held Six-Party Talks and to stabilize the relation with North.