Putin woos Asian investors in Russia’s Far East

Updated September 06, 2019

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend International Jigoro Kano Judo Tournament at the 5th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Thursday.—AP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend International Jigoro Kano Judo Tournament at the 5th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Thursday.—AP

VLADIVOSTOK: President Vladimir Putin sought to lure Asian investment to Russia’s Far East on Thursday as the launch was announced of a huge Arctic gas project aimed at Asian markets.

Hosting leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, Putin lauded Russia’s Far East as a destination for investment.

The region is full of “hardworking, energetic people”, “industries of the future” and “the richest reserves of natural resources”, Putin said.

“Take advantage of these opportunities,” he told a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum.

Moscow has hosted the forum every year since 2015 as it looks to bolster ties with Asia amid tensions with the West. Russian gas firm Novatek announced at the forum the launch of a major liquefied natural gas project in the Arctic with Chinese, French and Japanese partners.

Novatek said a final decision had been made on financing the $21 billion Arctic LNG 2 project with partners including France’s Total, CNPC and CNOOC of China, and a Japanese consortium of Mitsui & Co and JOGMEC.

The project will see the development of a gas field and the building of a liquefaction plant on the Gydan Peninsula in Russia’s Arctic, with exports starting in 2023.

It is the second launch of a major project for Novatek in the Arctic in the last three years as Russia — already the world’s biggest gas exporter — looks to develop LNG shipments to energy-hungry Asian markets.

Russian petrochemicals firm Sibur also announced a deal Thursday for gas giant Gazprom to supply it with liquefied petroleum gas for a new plant on the border with China that will produce polymers for Chinese plastic production.

In his speech at the plenary, Abe hailed Japan’s growing business ties with Russia and Moscow’s development of the Arctic through new technology and ice-breaking ships.

The Arctic LNG 2 project, he said, would be the realisation of a “grand connection” between the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

“For the first time in human history these two oceans will become one, and a magnificent physical distribution highway will come into being,” he said.

Abe urged Putin to finally sign a peace treaty with Japan, overcoming the two countries’ differences over a chain of Far Eastern islands.

Putin said however that there were still “many questions” that needed to be resolved before the signing of a treaty.

Putin and Abe have met 27 times in bids to resolve the dispute, which centres on islands — known in Russia as the Kurils and the Northern Territories in Japan — seized by Soviet troops in the dying days of World War II.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2019