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The Diplomat: Japan and Russia: Arctic Friends

Author: Stratos Pourzitakis
February 3, 2014

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"Through its warming ties with Russia, Japan seeks to exploit the Arctic's potential and to win support in standing up to what it regards as China's assertive policies. Working with Russia is a great opportunity for Japan to strengthen ties with the most important player in the Arctic and gain leverage within the Arctic Council. It will also give Japanese energy and maritime corporations and scientific institutions valuable Arctic access."

The Arctic region has moved to the center of world politics in 2014, siting high on the energy security agenda of most East Asian countries, including China and Japan. The latter has recently been stepping up its efforts to build a stronger foothold in the area. Those efforts have been given a boost recently by Tokyo's discovery of a new friend with a prominent role on the Arctic chessboard: Russia. A successful Japan-Russia rapprochement has the potential to serve as a game changer for both countries.

In September 2012, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest point ever. This has of course triggered very real fears about climate change, but it has also transformed the region into an energy hotspot. The Arctic is believed to contain 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil. At the same time, the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic offers alternative passage for energy transportation, offering both energy importers and exporters the opportunity to reduce their dependence on unstable waterways such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca.

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