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Japan, Russia meet to discuss energy ties, expand cooperation

Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest energy user, will discuss plans to boost imports of oil, gas and uranium from Russia as government officials start a 2-day meeting today.

„We see further room for cooperation in trade and business opportunities,” Yoshiro Mori, Japan’s former prime minister, said at the opening of the Japan Russia Forum in Tokyo. The Russian delegate led by Mezentsev Dmitry, deputy chairman of the nation’s Council of Federation, arrived in Japan yesterday for the conference, the countries’ fifth since 2001. Japan, which imports 89% of its crude oil from the Middle East, plans to diversify its supply sources. The government of the world’s second-biggest economy is following in the footsteps of China as it boosts diplomatic efforts to tap the energy resources of Central Asian countries, including Russia, the world’s biggest oil and gas producer.

„Cooperation between Japan and Russia in energy is important as it allows Japan to diversify its supply sources and Russia may have more outlets for its resources,” Taro Aso, Japan’s foreign minister, said. „We can expand our ties at new areas such as nuclear power.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russia Premier Mikhail Fradkov last month agreed to start negotiations on a nuclear energy contract. The talks centered on a legal framework allowing Russia to enrich extracted uranium from Japan’s spent nuclear fuel and to import nuclear related technologies from Japan.

 

Mezentsev said the nuclear contract and President Vladimir Putin’s first visit to Japan in November 2005 are positive developments. He welcomes plans by Japan’s Abe to visit Russia this year. Japan’s intention to increase imports of energy resources from Russia contrasts with discussions by European countries to cut their reliance on oil and gas from the Central Asian nation, after a series of supply disruptions.

Europe is Russia’s largest energy market. Russia is building a proposed 4,300-kilometer oil pipeline from Taishet in eastern Siberia to Perevoznaya on Russia’s Pacific coast to boost exports to Asian countries such as Japan and China. „The project is on schedule,” Mezentsev said. „Either in late 2008 or early 2009, there will be a big change in the energy sector in the Asian Pacific area.” Russia will build a pipeline to Skovorodino by the end of 2008 in the first phase of construction and in the second phase, an extension to Perevoznaya will be built. Japan has lobbied for the construction of the pipeline to Perevoznaya to boost imports of crude oil produced in eastern Siberian fields. (Bloomberg)