• Kyodo

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China, Japan and North and South Korea should work together, possibly under a joint governing agency, on securing oil from Russia to lower costs and increase regional energy security, researchers said over the weekend.

Speaking in Changchun at at the Greater Tumen Initiative Investment Forum, which is named after a Northeast Asian river, scholars from the Korea Energy Economics Institute, the Japan-based Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia and other study centers recommended working together despite competition for bilateral oil supply agreements with Russia.

“Not infrequently there is intense competition among consumers for energy supply sources and it is difficult to build normal cooperative relationships,” said Susuma Yoshida, board chairman of the Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia.

“However, vast amounts of money are required to develop resources, so long-term, stable development will be difficult unless countries combine their efforts,” he said.

Working together on joint pipelines would cost less than arranging two-way lines and make the most efficient use of resources, the scholars told about 250 Northeast Asian and U.N. leaders at the forum.

Cooperation would also ensure that all nations get oil even if instability in the Middle East threatens energy supplies from that region, said Yoo Seung Jick, a research fellow with the Center for Energy Research for Northeast Asia.

Northeast Asian leaders should consider setting up a regional development bank — a low-interest lender such as the World Bank — or a regional energy agency that could propose “bankable” projects for the region, Yoo said.

But he said lack of money, lack of cross-border regulations and “political tension due to both historical and contemporary causes” threatens energy cooperation.

Northeast Asia’s need for energy is growing faster than the world average because of rapid economic growth, according to the Korea Energy Economics Institute.

Chinese demand for oil will grow from 950 million tons in 2000 to 1.7 billion by 2020, and Japan will need 586 million tons in 2020, up from 559 million in 2000. South Korean demand over the period will go from 193 million tons to 312 million tons.

Russia has already agreed with Japan, South Korea and the United States to deliver natural gas from Sakhalin Island by 2006 and fire up full oil production by 2008. China is due for 20 million tons of oil from the Russian city of Taishet, while Japan and South Korea have arranged for 10 million tons.

China and Japan are competing for further resources. Russia has said it would prioritize China over Japan for a Siberian crude oil pipeline.

Russia announced in December a decision to build a pipeline on a Japanese-proposed Angarsk-Nakhodka route, but China proposed a route linking Angarsk to Daqing, a Chinese inland city in Heilongjiang Province that is closer to Angarsk than Nakhodka.

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