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Tokyo, Moscow discuss joint projects in Russia’s Far East

MOSCOW — Japanese and Russian ministers examined proposals Friday for development in the Russian Far East, an important issue for Moscow and an element of the eight-point economic cooperation plan proposed by Tokyo.

 

Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko met here with Russian Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka, whose ministry put forward the potential projects.

 

“We want to discuss Far East-related business, including the 18 proposed projects, as part of the work done by the [Japanese and Russian] working groups,” Seko said.

 

The current partnership is a starting point for broader cooperation in the future, Galushka said.

 

The Russian Far East is huge, making up a third of the country’s land mass, yet hosts just 6 million or so people and little industry of note. Development of the region is a priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

Japan plans to work with Russia to upgrade and expand such infrastructure as airports and harbors through public-private partnerships. Friday’s discussion covered projects aimed at cultivating local industry and creating jobs, such as vegetable factories using Japanese greenhouse technology.

 

But the Far East Development Ministry’s proposals apparently also included trickier projects, like an “energy bridge” of power lines between the two countries that would let Russia export electricity. Seko is working out the implementation of bilateral cooperation with Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev and Energy Minister Alexander Novak, a process in which Galushka is not directly involved.

 

But “developing industries and export bases in the Far East” is one of the items in Japan’s eight-point plan. As such, the ministry’s 18 proposals will be considered and fine-tuned to fit the Japanese framework. The two sides agreed Thursday to study the energy bridge idea without drawing any conclusions in advance.

 

Tokyo hopes to parlay economic cooperation into progress on a long-running territorial dispute with Moscow.

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