10/12/2009, 00.00
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Russia and China to develop Siberia’s rich mineral fields

Russian PM Putin arrives in Beijing for two days of meetings with Chinese leaders. Agreements on energy and trade are expected, but talks will also touch international politics, Iran, North Korea and the global financial crisis.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will discuss energy, Iran and international politics when they meet later tomorrow after the Russian leader arrives in Beijing on a two-day visit. Expectations are high as the two sides plan to develop coal, iron and precious metals fields in eastern Siberia.

According to press reports, the programme could include as many as 205 joint projects approved by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, at a meeting in New York on 23 September.

In 2009 Russia also signed Chinese oil contracts valued at US$ 100 billion, and is now negotiating an agreement that would make China OAO Gazprom’s biggest customer for natural gas.

Russia’s Transneft also plans to finish the first segment of its East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline this year, enabling Russia to send the fuel directly to China.

Sino-Russian trade reached a record billion in 2008, with oil and other mineral products accounting for 56 per cent of trade, with Russia currently making fuel deliveries by rail and through a pipeline that passes through Kazakhstan.

Russia, which hitherto focused on export markets in Europe, now wants to diversify and energy-hungry China is willing to pay the right price for supplies.

Turkmenistan, central Asia's largest gas producer, will start in December pumping gas to mainland China via a 7,000km pipeline with an eventual capacity of 40 billion cubic metres a year, almost half of mainland's current domestic output.

Under a 2006 pact, Gazprom planned to build two gas pipelines to China, but a company official said that “huge differences” on pricing remained between the two sides.

Despite such problems, energy is too important for either party. Experts believe that whatever differences they may have, the latter are not negatively affecting their increasingly close cooperation. Bilateral trade in fact reached a record US$ 56 billion in 2008, with oil and other mineral products accounting for 56 per cent.

Indeed, for a number of analysts the two nations have never been so close, in particular on international politics, now more than ever since they have no territorial dispute along their 4,000-kilometre border.

Both Russia and China are members of the BRIC group that includes India and Brazil, which is demanding a greater say for emerging countries.

The two are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional group that includes Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and which is scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Beijing.

SCO is playing a greater political role in the international arena, and this year will focus on the Iranian question.

North Korea will also be discussed, a week after Chinese Prime Minister Wen visited Pyongyang where he met North Korean Kim Jong-il and convinced him to return to the six-nation talks (which include Russia) on the North Korean nuclear programme.

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