Japan, Russia expedite oil pipeline talks

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1 -- Senior Japanese and Russian government officials have agreed to speed up their talks on possible cooperation in building oil pipelines linking eastern Siberia with Russia's Pacific coast.

Japanese officials said the accord was reached on Oct. 31 in a meeting between the visiting director general of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Nobuyori Kodaira, and Sergey Oganesyan, head of Russia's Federal Energy Agency.

Expediting the talks is considered essential as Japan and Russia want to issue a document on bilateral cooperation over the project during Russian President Vladimir Putin's planned visit to Japan later this month.

Japan wants Russia to build a 4,100-km pipeline from Taishet near Lake Baikal to Nakhodka on Russia's Sea of Japan coast, while China wants a 2,400-km pipeline to the industrial city of Daqing in northern China.

In April, Moscow appeared to back Chinese interests by issuing an order for the pipeline to be built from Taishet to the halfway point at Skovorodino near the Russia-China border. Putin then said the further construction of the pipeline on to the Pacific coast would depend on development of new oil fields in eastern Siberia.

Meanwhile, a feasibility study for the project could be accepted by the end of this year, according to Oganesyan.

"Everything is being done for this decision being passed by the end of the year," Oganesyan told reporters at the All-Russia Oil & Gas Week on Oct. 31. He acknowledged that work is going with "much difficulty" due to alternative proposals on the route of the pipeline and a terminal on the Pacific coast.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@spidernet.com.cy.

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