Author`s name Olga Savka

Russia, Japan Discuss Oil Pipeline Project in Irkutsk

The Japanese officials could not but mention the territorial problem

The idea of talks between Russia and Japan appeared in 2002 during Vladimir Putin's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. The first two negotiations took place in Moscow and St.Petersburg - they were devoted to globalization, security, culture, ecology, anti-terrorist struggle. Another Russian-Japanese forum took place in the city of Irkutsk last week. The forum was called "Perspectives of the Russian-Japanese cooperation in the Asian-Pacific region under the conditions of globalization."

The forum was held in BaikalBusinessCenter - one of the most prestigious venues for negotiations in Irkutsk. The Japanese delegation had a rather intensive schedule: on September 12th they took part in a plenary session and held three forum meetings, and on Saturday morning they gave a press conference. After several days of hard work, the Japanese guests made a break to admire the beauty of Lake Baikal. Japanese forum members were all wearing expensive dark suits, showing the Asian immaculate business fashion. There was nothing fanciful or eye-catching in their appearance. The Japanese do not like contact lenses, they prefer to wear glasses. They probably think that glasses are a lot better to create the intellectual image. Spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry, Mr. Sinoda and president of the national complex research institute Mr. Sioya were wearing plain glasses without any adornments. Several Russian and Japanese officials forgot to turn their cellular phones off not to disturb the meeting. Japanese cell phones are the same as everyone else's - they do not have any special ring tones.

Imperturbability is of the brightest peculiarities of the Japanese culture. The Japanese delegation in Irkutsk was an excellent example to prove it: at times it seemed that they did not know how to smile. Some of them looked like Japanese sphinxes. When a special envoy of the Japanese government was not talking during the meeting, he was sitting with his eyes closed and there were wrinkles on his face. It seemed that he was meditating at such moments.

Reporters were allowed to be present only at the first plenary session, three other meetings were hidden from the public eye. Probably, the most important issue on agenda was connected with the pipeline from the town of Angarsk. The Japanese call this project "the pipeline to the Pacific Ocean." For the time being, specialists have developed two routes for the pipeline - to the Chinese town of Daqin and to the Far Easter town of Nakhodka. The pipeline is over 2,000 kilometers long to the Chinese border, the project is $1.7 billion worth. The pipe to Nakhodka will be about 1.5 kilometers longer, it will cost up to six billion dollars.

It goes without saying that the Japanese are very interested in having the pipe in Nakhodka, because Japan (as well as other Asian Pacific countries suffering from the lack of energy) will have more fuel and more chances for economic progress. Nevertheless, the Japanese officials were really cautious in their statements regarding the pipeline. In addition, other countries of the region realize that Japan's excessive interest may become its weak point in the issue. Japanese delegates emphasized the advantages that Russia would gain with the help of the pipeline: "The Russian crude will access a more serious market, the economic stability will appear in the region," Japanese officials say.

The territorial issue saddened the talks a little: The Japanese officials touched upon the question of the Kurile islands again. In other words, an agreement regarding the Kurile islands is vital for talks about the development of economic relations. Japan is eager to have an immaculate image in Russia too.

Russia and Japan were at a loss about the correct title of the forum: whether it is a Russian-Japanese or a Japanese-Russian discussion. It is still not known, what the correct title of the joint forum would be in 2004 in Japan.

Anastasia Kalashnikova

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