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Northeast Asian countries call for regional energy cooperation roadmap

(Xinhua)

10:50, September 09, 2011

CHANGCHUN, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Countries in northeast Asia are in dire need for regional energy cooperation, according to officials and companies who are currently attending an ongoing expo in northeast China's Jilin Province.

"A storage base for importing natural gas from Russia is under construction in Gangwon-do," said Choe Mun Sun, an official from the provincial government of Gongwon-do in the Republic of Korea (ROK), at the seventh China Jilin Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo, which is currently being held in Jilin's capital city of Changchun.

Sun said that if a pipeline can be laid to send natural gas from Russia to the ROK by way of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Gongwon-do will be able to serve as distribution center for the natural gas.

He added that energy demand in northeast Asian countries has been rising sharply, as the world's economy is shifting its focus towards Asia.

"The northeastern Asian region should create an energy cooperation roadmap as soon as possible so that countries in the region will be better able to cope with market uncertainties and possible energy crises," he said.

His opinion was shared by Vradi Sergei, a research fellow from the Russia Science Academy. He said that cooperation in the energy sector should be a top concern for countries in the region.

Northeastern Asia covers 17.28 million square km, including the six countries of China, Japan, the ROK, Russia, the DPRK and Mongolia. The region accounts for one-fifth of the global economy and is home to a quarter of the world's population.

Sindzi Hirai, an official from Tottoriken, Japan, said Japan's energy sector is in urgent need of foreign supplies and materials, as it is still in rough shape since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

"The demand for LNG (liquified natural gas) used to generate power in Japan has soared since the disaster. Securing energy trade deals with neighboring countries is a new task for the government," said Hirai.

Japan inked an agreement with Russia in April to build a LNG base in Russia's eastern city of Vladivostok. The base will boast an annual output of 10 million metric tons of LNG. Russia's abundant oil and natural gas reserves have made it a major energy exporter in northeast Asia.

A report by the DPRK's Academy of Social Sciences pointed out that energy cooperation in northeast Asia is generally focused on tapping oil and gas resources in Russia and sending them to other countries. Many of these cooperative energy projects require constructing transportation and energy supply facilities across the Korean Peninsula.

"If an energy supply network can be built on the Korean Peninsula, it will help to satisfy energy demands in the region," the report said.

Moon Jaedo, an official with the ROK's delegation to the expo, said that northeast Asian countries need to not only boost energy cooperation in the future, but will also need to establish a cooperative mechanism to ensure stable energy supplies and give the region the ability to fend off future crises.

The six-day expo opened on Tuesday and is expected to attract 50,000 exhibitors and visitors from the six northeast Asian countries.

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