Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Hiroshige Seko is in Moscow this week to discuss a new Japanese agency to support private sector for developing of agriculture in Russia’s Far East. The mission of the agency wil be to help increase agricultural production and improve the quality of products from this region, by using Japanese technology to accelerate progress and boost yeilds etc.
Back in May, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in Sochi to discuss a wide range of political, economic and international issues pertaining to both counties. Then when Abe visited the Russian city of Vladivostok to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum, experts took note of the positive upswing and tone of more recent conversations. Now the two countries seem closer to settling a territorial disspute that has long hampered relations. Japan and Russia have never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II due to a disagreement over four islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan the Northern Territories. The disputed islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, were claimed by Soviet forces at the end of the war, but Japan has never acknowledged the legality of the seizure.
Meanwhile western leaders fear Russian President Vladimir Putin's "pivot" to Japan and the rest of Asia will hurt US alliances there. A Congressional report warns of US mistrust in Japan and South Korea should those nations develop closer ties with Russia. For the two neighbors though, key developments in Russia's Far East will weigh heavily in the near future. Mr. Putin's plans reveal more and more, the potential this vastly underuitilized region afford all regional players and even the world.
Programs insituted by Putin's administration in the Far East continue to grow as evidenced by the unique land program in Siberia. Thousands of Russians have already taken the government up on the offer to forge a new economy in Russia's Far East by applying for a free hectare of land in region. Settlers are already begun to plan for projects like building hotels, opening eco-villages, or even keeping bees. And on a much larger scale, news a massive Russia-China water redistribution project is being reworked could be monumental. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev already approved a revisiting of the so-called "River Reversal Project" that was scrapped by the Gorbachev administration. Largely unreported, the plan is a massive undertaking to re-form vital basins in Central Asia by diverting waters headed to the Arctic toward Kazakhstan, China, and the rest of Central Asia. Massive Chinese water projects are already underway, and the Russian side is reportedly continuing with vast canal building efforts to complete parts of the Soviet plan.
While western news outlets report only on Vladivostok region casino building and similar projects, Russia's commitment to grow the overall region are largely unknown in the English speaking world. Russia plan to share surplus electricity in the Far East withJapan and South Korea, is but one undereported initiative that may tip the balance of influence. Outside the geo-political ramifications though, are the overall benefits of these mighty Asia players cooperating to develop the region. Investment, Mr. Putin's planned science hub, tax initiatives, massive construction and housing plans, shipbuilding, and so forth punctuate what is likely the world's most important future region of growth. Taken in the vein, Japan would have to be blind not to be thinking of joining the Eurasian Econimic Union, at some point.