Russia offers a bridge across history to connect Tokyo to the Trans-Siberian railway

Project of the bridge between mainland and Sakhalin. Picture: Giprostroymost

Scheme would allow epic journeys from London to the Japanese capital with major international crossing between Sakhalin and Hokkaido.

The ambitious plan gave a welcome dose of optimism to a region engulfed by tension over the North Korean nuclear tests.

Such a road and rail bridge would tie together two countries – Russia and Japan – that have not signed a formal peace agreement ending the Second World War due to a dispute over the Kuril Islands.

Despite this, relations appear to be anyway warming with a number of joint projects in the Kurils unfolding between the countries.

‘We are seriously offering Japanese partners to consider the construction of a mixed road and railway passage from Hokkaido to southern part of Sakhalin,’ said Russia’s first vice-premier Igor Shuvalov.

Igor Shuvalov

Russia’s first vice-premier Igor Shuvalov on Eastern Economic Forum 2017. Picture: TASS

‘At the same time, we are close to starting our part of the job, which is extending the railway to the Pacific shore and the construction of passage of the same complexity from mainland to Sakhalin.’

Currently the Trans-Siberian line ends in Vladivostok, but the new proposal, outlined Wednesday at the Eastern Economic Forum, held in the city, would see it go east from the Russian mainland to the Pacific island of Sakhalin, and from there to Hokkaido where it would link with the Japanese rail network.

Japan would become a ‘continental state’, he said.

‘Given modern technologies, it is not even that expensive,’ he said.



New proposal would see it go east from the Russian mainland to the Pacific island of Sakhalin, and from there to Hokkaido where it would link with the Japanese rail network. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Earlier senior figures in Moscow had played down the cost effectiveness of a rail link to Japan, but Shuvalov appears convinced.

The EEF was attended by more than 4,200 participants from Russia and many leading countries around the world.

Around those represented were Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Vladimir Putin met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Vladivostok and called for talks not more sanctions – as desired by the US – over North Korea.

Vladimir Putin and Moon Jae-in

Vladimir Putin met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Vladivostok and called for talks not more sanctions. Picture:

‘We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner,’ he warned. ‘As never before everyone should show restraint and refrain from steps leading to escalation and tensions.’

Moon said: ‘Myself and President Putin share a view that North Korea has gone the wrong way with its nuclear and missile programme and that easing tension on the Korean Peninsula is an urgent issue.’

On Thursday, Putin said ‘common sense’ could ease tensions over North Korea. He told the EEF: ‘I am sure that things will not go as far as a large-scale conflict, especially with the use of weapons of mass destruction.’

He believed the Trump administration was ‘willing to resolve’ the situation.

Trans-Siberian railway

Trans-Siberian railway

Trans-Siberian railway

Trans-Siberian Railway. Pictures: Russian Railways

‘All the competing sides have enough common sense and understanding of their responsibility. We can solve this problem through diplomatic means,’ he said.

Participants of the EEF were told of Russia’s priority aim to boost the economy of regions close to its Pacific coastline.

Some 837 investment projects have been established in the Russian Far East, which boasts rich natural resources, including oil, gas, portable water, diamond and forest reserves as well as unique logistic conditions, said Yury Trutnev, another deputy premier.

In an upbeat message, Putin said Thursday: ‘The Far East offers a unique combination of opportunities and competitive advantages for the implementation of ambitious projects, including preferential tax treatment and streamlined administrative procedures, which are comparable to or even more comfortable than in the best development areas in Asia Pacific and the world.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin at Eastern Economic Forum 2017. Picture: Vostokforum

‘These advantages also include rich natural resources – coal, oil, gas and metals, as well as low energy prices, which are lower in Blagoveshchensk, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk than in Busan, Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo or Beijing.

New transportation corridors are being built and ports capacities are being increased to give companies an opportunity to deliver their goods from Asia Pacific to Europe and back, as well as to other regions, as quickly and as cheaply as possible. We are scrutinising the opportunity of building a railway bridge to Sakhalin.

Northern Sea Route

Winter oil shipping via Northern Sea Route. Picture: Gazprom

‘Taken together with the development of the Northern Sea Route, modernisation of BAM and Trans-Siberian Railway and implementation of other projects, this will help us make the Russian Far East a major global logistics hub.’

The president said Russia was ready to work with partners from east and west.

‘We are open for deeper investment, trade and financial ties with all partners, both from the eastern and western coast of the Pacific Ocean, especially considering that investment opportunities in Russia’s Far East are truly immense,’ he said at the EEF plenary session.

President Putin on Wedensday launched a series of new initiatives in the Far East.

This included the PJSC ‘Vysochaishy’ gold mining and processing enterprise in Yakutia. Deposits amount to 225 tons of gold.

KGK Diamonds

KGK diamond cutting plant launched in Primorsky Krai. Picture: ERDC

Polyus started the commissioning of its Natalka gold mining operation in Magadan, with a capacity to process 10 million tonnes of ore a year and some 2,000 new jobs.

The head of state launched a diamond cutting plant in Primorsky Krai.

And he gave a command to build factories for deep processing of soybeans in Amur Region and the production of sawdust in Khabarovsk region.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Alrosa gem giant are discussing joint investments on selling diamonds on the Asian markets, said RDIF’s general director Kirill Dmitriev said in an interview with TASS.

‘We are discussing various projects with Alrosa, including those related to distribution on the Asian markets, and we see opportunities for investments in projects for the distribution of diamonds.’



PJSC ‘Vysochaishy’ gold mining and processing enterprise in Yakutia. Polyus started the commissioning of its Natalka gold mining operation in Magadan. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Alrosa is unlikely to start new operations at its flooded Mir mine for more than two years, said the Yegor Borisov, head of the republic of Yakutia (also known as Sakha).

Eight men were lost after a rescue operation saved the lives of 143.

The suspension of the mine will not hurt sales of ALROSA, he said.

‘We will have a reduction of production, but it will not affect sales of diamonds.’



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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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