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Energy Cooperation Urged of NE Asian Countries
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Northeast Asian countries, including China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, should strengthen their cooperation in energy sector as a way to ensure energy security, ward off economic ups and downs, and tackle environment deterioration, experts said at a forum on Sunday afternoon.

The Second Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation Forum (Sept 2-4) in Changchun, Jilin Province, is jointly organized by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Development Program (UNDP), and the Organizing Committee of the Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo.

Energy issues are top of the agenda of the session. Rising international crude oil prices have a significant impact on oil importing nations like China, Japan and South Korea. Statistics show that in 2004, oil consumption in the three countries accounted for 20 percent of the world's total. About 90 percent of Japan and South Korea's crude oil, and 40 percent of China's are imported. Moreover, China has stepped up imports to sustain the rapid growth of its economy.

"Regional energy cooperation will bring a win-win situation," said Zhu Xianping, vice president of the Northeast Asia Research Institute of Jilin University.

"Energy cooperation will improve their bargaining powers in the international crude oil market, and eliminate existing 'Asian' price, which raises the expenses of oil-importing countries like China, South Korea and Japan."

The three countries are reportedly paying extra for their oil supplies.

However, unsolved territory and historical disputes in the region have been an obstacle to the setting up of regional energy cooperation organization or coordinating group.

In Zhu's opinion, Russia, with huge reserves of oil and natural gas in the region, is an ideal source for oil supplies.

"Regional energy cooperation will be good for Russia, too," he said. "About 40 percent of Russia's fiscal revenue comes from its oil exports, and accordingly is prone to fluctuate, while the huge consumption market in northeast Asia will guarantee Russia steady revenues."

"What's more, energy cooperation can accelerate economic cooperation in the Greater Tumen River region, improve intergovernmental negotiations, maintain political stability and promote regional economic integration," Zhu added.

The Tumen Secretariat, a UNDP organization for the development of northeast Asia countries, has been working towards developing intergovernmental policy dialogue since it was set up in early 1990s. Priority is given to regional cooperation projects in transportation, energy, tourism, investment and environment.

According to Onder Yucer, acting director of the Tumen Secretariat, a ministerial meeting will be held in late October this year in Vladivostok, Russia. One of the issues on the agenda is the establishment of a regional energy working committee.

The Second Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation Forum consists of four key sessions: the rejuvenation of the old industrial base in northeast China, the development of logistics in the EU, investment and development in the greater Tumen River region, and Northeast Asia economic cooperation and legal service.

( by staff reporter Tang Fuchun, September 4, 2006)

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