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Japan has a concentrated interest in Arctic issues

About how Japan does not want to stay out of the global processes of developing the resources and opportunities of the Arctic region, using the acquired status of "observer" in the international Arctic Council, argues Alexander Kurmazov, the first secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Japan

In the Asia-Pacific region, the territories and spaces of the World Ocean, located to the north of 60 ° s, are usually referred to the Arctic. W, including the Bering, Chukchi and other seas adjacent to the Arctic Ocean.

Japan has a concentrated interest in Arctic issues
In the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, which has recently been increasingly beginning to be considered, and taking into account the situation in the Arctic region, the Russian position is confronted with the interests, above all, of the United States and Canada. These countries also belong to the Arctic coastal states and have common sea borders with Russia in this region. Recently, however, non-Arctic countries — China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and others — have shown increasing interest in the Arctic. And this also has to be considered.

Japan is not a subarctic state, but does not want to stay away from the world processes of assessing, developing and using the diverse resources and capabilities of the Arctic region, using the status of "observer" it acquired in the international Arctic Council for this.

About the genuine interest of Japan to the problems of the Arctic and primarily to the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is evidenced by the establishment in 2012 of the parliamentary League for ensuring the safety of the NSR under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Abe S. Sluggish studies of the NSR were conducted in Japan, starting 1995 year after the collapse THE USSR. Their activation began after the East Asian neighbors of Japan - China and the Republic of Korea - became closely involved in this issue.

Concentrated interest in the Arctic issues, including the possibility of using SMPs, also comes from non-governmental organizations. In particular, from the side of the Asia-Pacific Forum (ATF). Practical interest in the problem of the use of SMP is also evident in the large Japanese business.
Monitoring the situation around the Arctic issues in Japan shows that there are several rather important topics that are obviously of interest to the Japanese government:
- the possibility of practical use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR);
- scientific research of the Arctic seas to deepen scientific knowledge in the field of oceanology, physics and chemistry of waters of the Arctic seas, to obtain new scientific data on marine biological resources, as well as to predict long-term climatic changes;
- the acquisition of the status of an "observer" under the Arctic Council by Japan and other countries of the APR;
- expansion of cooperation and at the same time competition between Russia and China and other Asian countries in the joint development of Arctic resources, primarily hydrocarbon deposits;
- ensuring Russia's interests in the Arctic with military and technical means;

Not left in Japan without attention and the problem of "northern territories" in the era of the NSR.
Some Japanese observers also draw attention to the development of international standards and regulations regarding the protection of the vulnerable Arctic environment.

The Northern Sea Route

The first reports in Japan about the successful posting of a tanker carrying liquefied gas by the Russian state corporation "Gazprom" on the Northern Sea Route were published by the Japanese media three years ago. The final delivery point was the Japanese port of Kit-Kyushu. The Norwegian tanker, which was rented by Gazprom, was released 7 November 2012 from the Norwegian port of Hammerfest and 5 December 2012 arrived at the destination. In the polar seas of Russia, the nuclear-powered icebreaker provided the conduct of the tanker.

Gazprom is making plans to develop gas fields on the Yamal Peninsula, in order to then use the NSR to transport gas to Asia-Pacific countries and Europe.

After that, the Japanese public-private partnership began to show increased attention to the possibility of using the NSR, highlighting such key points: reducing travel time and transport costs; Hokkaido with its ports can become the front gate of this important transport artery; The aggravation of the contradictions of the countries concerned about the space and resources of the Arctic.

The first step was the actions of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, aimed at drawing attention to Japan from the countries of the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council was created by eight countries that have territories beyond the Arctic Circle, in 1996. These countries include Russia, Finland, Denmark (Greenland), USA, Canada, Sweden, Iceland, Norway. At present, France, Holland, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Poland, as well as five Asian countries - Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, China, Singapore - have the statute of observers on the council. In May 2013, with the support of Russia, Japan was granted observer status in the Arctic Council and "received support to enhance its position in the Arctic."

In the same year, the government of Japan, on the basis of the parliament's decision, for the first time included the topic of Arctic development in the Naval Master Plan. The Ministry of State Lands and Transport received a separate budget to study economic and other prospects and benefits, as well as legal aspects of the use of the NSR. Because of the significant difference in the legislation of different countries, which can regulate relations in connection with the use of the Arctic, many problems arise, the solution of which is not the competence of business. Basically, only states can act as subjects of Arctic activity.

To study, including these issues in Japan, two international symposiums (in Tokyo and Sapporo) were held with the participation of Russian, American and Norwegian experts on the problems of the Northern Sea Route. The fact that part of the work was held in Sapporo, not by accident. Japan seeks to secure its own special role in the operation of the NSR. It is about representing the world community of the island of Hokkaido as a gateway to Asia on this path. The port of basing of vessels following the NSR is planned to be made by Tomakomai. But the South Korean port of Pusan ​​began to claim this role, the scale and volumes of cargo transportation surpassing the Hokkaido harbor. And although the location of Tomakomai is geographically more attractive, international rivalry flares up serious.

Currently, Japan provides itself with the supply of energy raw materials from the Middle East, North American and South from Australia. Only the northern direction remained untapped - the NSR. The main direction - the Middle East, through the Suez Canal. Given the tense situation in the Middle East, the diversification of sea routes for the delivery of hydrocarbons is becoming a very important task for Japan.
This task seems to be solved in 2018 year, when the transportation of liquefied gas from the Yamal peninsula on the Arctic coast in Siberia will begin on a regular basis. The line for delivery of gas produced in this Siberian and Arctic region will be serviced by the largest Japanese maritime carrier MITSUI OSK Lines Ltd. The gas will be delivered to Japan and other countries of Northeast Asia and to European countries. The annual volume of transportation of liquefied gas is forecasted at 3 million tons.

At the same time, Japanese analysts recognize the existence of problems that are difficult to eliminate, but they will affect the degree of efficiency of the operation of the NSR. This is primarily severe climatic conditions, because of which the duration of navigation and the speed of wiring can vary. In addition, the use of the icebreaker fleet to accompany the transports significantly increases the cost of the operation of the NSR. Also Japan is troubled by a deserted coast and a weak infrastructure of Russian ports beyond the Arctic Circle.

And, finally, about the Ukrainian events, which also see the possibility of influencing the alignment of forces in Arctic policy. Cooling relations with Europe will unfold Russia facing Asia. In Asia, more energy will be supplied to Russia. And here they pin their hopes on the NSR, despite all the difficulties revealed.

Scientific research of the Arctic seas

Scientific research of the Arctic seas for deepening scientific knowledge in the field of oceanology, physics and chemistry of waters in the Arctic seas, as well as for obtaining new scientific data on marine biological resources, is precisely the direction in which Japan could - and already is trying to do so - Practical contribution to the study and development of the Arctic. This country positions itself as the closest Asian state to the Arctic and should take advantage of this advantage. Therefore, it is necessary to untwist not only the "Hokkaid card of the Asian gate", but also to conduct scientific research in the Arctic regions. In particular, in connection with the SMP problem, the most important issue is monitoring the distribution of ice. At present, Japanese scientists use the international resource - data from Russian surveys and research, as well as data from US satellite observations to study this issue.

At the same time, the Japanese government decided to create an unmanned underwater research vessel to study the distribution of Arctic ice from the water column. The need for constant monitoring of ice conditions in the Arctic, the region has not been sufficiently studied, does not need comments. When navigating vessels, surface surveillance instruments to ensure safe navigation in difficult ice conditions are clearly inadequate. Observations from the water column will provide much more information for the safety of navigation, including the thickness of the ice and the formation of underwater hummocks, as well as the salinity of water, the direction of currents and much more.

The study of the state of Arctic ice is also important because changes in the ice cover, especially if they pass quickly, will undoubtedly affect the shifts in the climate and the state of ecosystems.
To fill gaps in the Arctic knowledge system, Japan conducted a comprehensive scientific survey in the northern part of the Bering Sea and in the Bering Strait of the Chukchi Sea, using the research vessel of the Hokkaido University "Osero-Maru". The conducted researches can be regarded as a serious application for the recognition of Japan as a full member of the "Arctic Club". Apparently, the Japanese government also counts on this assessment.
Even a brief enumeration of the items of scientific work shows the scope of the project: the determination of the speed and nature of the currents, the measurement of water temperature, the collection of plankton samples, the collection of ichthyofauna samples, observations of seabirds and cetaceans, sampling for the determination of trace elements in sea water and its acidity, and Also some other observations and sampling.

These works were carried out within the framework of the five-year GRENE program, which was established to study climate change in the Arctic by the Ministry of Education and Science of Japan in 2011 until 2016. This program is provided from the state budget, the annual amount of its subsidy is 600 billion yen. About 300 scientists from 35 research institutes and universities participate in the research on this program.

The main purpose of these works is the prediction of upcoming changes in the state of the Arctic ecosystem as a result of climate-oceanological changes currently taking place. As a result of melting of polar ice in the Chukchi Sea, an explosive increase in the biomass of plankton may occur, beyond which the appearance of pollock and even salmon in the Arctic seas cannot be excluded.

For long-term climate predictions, Arctic research is also needed. A decrease in the ice cover in the Barents Sea can lead to a shift of cyclonic activity to the north and intensification and, most importantly, expansion of the Siberian anticyclone, which can affect the Japanese climate, making the winters on the islands colder.

I must say that the future of Japanese Arctic research in the coming years may be under a big question. The mentioned vessel "Osoyo-Maru" carried out its last flight during the Arctic researches and will be written off. Underwater drones are still in the state of the project. And its practical use of all problems will not be solved.

Scientific ice class vessels are only available from the Ministry of Defense of Japan. According to the law "On the forces of self-defense" this ministry can conduct scientific research only in the Antarctic. In this regard, the concerned ministries of Japan (the Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of State Lands and Transport) have begun to consider the construction of a new scientific icebreaking vessel specifically for Arctic research. To build such a vessel will need funds of several hundred million dollars.

The vessel will be designed for international studies and will take on board foreign scientists to carry out international programs. There will also be independent work in the Arctic Ocean. Both should emphasize the growing presence of Japan in the Arctic.

A certain part of the fish resources of the Bering Sea for the needs of the domestic market is obtained by Japan, fishing in the Russian part of the sea and purchasing fish raw materials from this area from Russia and the United States. Subsidiaries of Japanese companies producing Surimi from pollock operate in the Aleutian Islands. The distribution of its clusters in the Bering Sea zone of the USA in recent years has changed greatly, the fishery has shifted towards the Russian 400-500 km From onshore processing bases, which leads to a significant increase in the additional costs for transitions and transportation of the catch.



Taking into account the above-mentioned circumstances, that climatic and oceanological changes may lead to changes in the distribution and condition of the stocks of fishing facilities, which the country is interested in, the Hokkaido University has conducted investigations of the state of the ice cover in the Bering Sea, as well as in the southern part of the Arctic Of the ocean. Such studies have not been carried out by Japan in these areas for 15 years. The new data made it possible to assess the direction of the changes, including the state of the fish stocks that occurred during this period.


Cooperation and competition between Russia and China and other Asian countries in the joint development of Arctic resources

In this section, we will try to generalize the Japanese assessments of the inclusion of other Asian countries in the development of the Arctic.

China also seeks to play its own, independent, role in the development of the Arctic. The PRC is trying to establish contacts with the Arctic countries with the Nordic countries, in particular, with the Arctic Science Agency, which was created by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland. With this agency in December 2013, an agreement was reached on the establishment of the China-North European Arctic Science Center in Shanghai. The main activities of this center will be climate change over the Arctic Circle, the development of Arctic resources and Arctic sea routes.

He demonstrated his independent arctic position in 2012, successfully implementing, in cooperation with Iceland, the conduct of a research vessel not through the coastal polar waters of Russia, but through higher latitudes, bypassing the NSR. In the next year, from China to Europe through the Arctic Ocean was delivered 20 thousand tons of commercial cargo. At the same time it is planned that by 2020 this way to Europe from China will be delivered up to 15% of cargo.

China calls the Icelandic Reykjavik the main port of Northern Europe at the beginning of the Northern Sea Route. Therefore, relations with the People's Republic of China are becoming more active with Iceland. However, China does not demonstrate its ambitions as a country of the main port in Asia at the end of the NSR. Although, according to Japan, such ports could be Dalian or Shanghai. Chinese specialists on this account answer that "ultimately, the ship's owner and the cargo owner determine the base port based on the cost of transportation and speed." And it's hard not to agree with this.

Japan believes that Russia's polar ambitions were hurt by such a move. Commercial use of the NSR implies the obligatory use (of course, paid) of Russian icebreakers, as well as fees for passage along this route.

Japanese experts put forward the following justification for the protection of Japanese economic interests. SMP, most likely, will be open to shipping 5 months a year. The port of Tomakomai is at such a distance, for example, from Murmansk, which large container ships can cover in two weeks. That is, it is quite possible to carry out a flight back and forth a month. South Korean or Chinese ports, and even Japanese ports to the south, significantly reduce the number of flights. Therefore, the port of Tomakomai could become a point of entry for the NSR at the point where the northern conditions would no longer be the limit of navigation. And the delivered cargo can be transported from this port further - to the southern regions of Asia.

Hokkaido can play another supporting role in this issue. The ports of eastern Hokkaido and Kushiro and Nemuro could play the role of safe havens in case of severe storms.

Providing Russia with its interests in the Arctic with military and technical means. Japanese ratings
First of all, these are security issues. Moreover, not only Russia's security in this area, but also other members of the Arctic Club, as well as the users' countries, both the transport potential of the NSR and the subsoil resources, but for certain regions and marine biological resources.

There is nothing unnatural about the fact that Japan closely links its plans with the use of the Arctic potential to security issues. Japanese researchers of Arctic problems singled out two main components in this direction - military and icebreaker, in other words - technical.

In Japan, the President of Russia V.Putin 10 December 2013 responded immediately to representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the commanding staff of the Armed Forces, citing his speech on the need to use all possible means to ensure security and Russian state interests in the Arctic. Japanese media also drew attention to the instructions of the Russian president to form specialized military units in the Arctic and speed up the equipment of military bases in the region.

In practical terms, this means primarily the construction of runways and equipped quays in the Frans Josef Land Archipelago and the Novosibirsk Islands to ensure the uninterrupted supply of Arctic military units with the aim of permanently stationing military aviation and the Russian Navy here. In Japan, it is reasonable to believe that by these actions Russia is trying to strengthen the containment of increasing activity in the Arctic by the United States and China. It is even more difficult to disagree with such an impartial assessment of Russian actions: "Russia seeks to secure its leading rights to develop the Arctic rich in natural resources. Russia declares itself in the Arctic region a new "zone of greatest influence," whose strategic importance is steadily increasing. "

Sufficient provision of marine Arctic regions with an icebreaker fleet is no less important than the creation of a military infrastructure. It is directly related to guaranteeing the safety of traffic flows.

In Japan, the Russian icebreaking fleet and plans for its improvement are carefully assessed, noting the inevitable failure of the existing icebreakers in the near future, the number of which in 2012 declined from 7 to 6 units. The growth of freight traffic on the NSR is growing, and work is being intensified to develop the resources of the Arctic shelf. Therefore, Russia can not do without a powerful icebreaker fleet equipped with nuclear engines.

At present, the flagship of the Russian nuclear icebreaking fleet is the world's largest icebreaker - a nuclear powered vessel "50 Anniversary Victory. " Of the three nuclear icebreakers planned for construction, one will be the largest in the world and surpass the current leader of this fleet in terms of parameters. He will be able to punch the way in ice thickness of 4 meters.

Russian-Japanese territorial problem in the epoch of the NSR

The Japanese would not be themselves, if as all took the starting point of the NSR ports of northern Europe. Therefore, they consider the beginning of the NSR to be Asia and, in particular, Japan. And in this beginning are just the southern Kuriles, which in Japan are called "northern territories", and the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, whose coastal state is quite rightly considered by Japan.

According to Tokai Yamada Y., professor of the University, if the NMS really works, the movement of vessels across the Strait of Catherine (separates the islands of Kunashir and Iturup of the South Kuril archipelago) will become active. Already through this passage, liquefied gas is transported from Sakhalin to Japan. Shipping in this area is becoming more lively.

Sea areas where it is necessary to maintain order and security on the part of Russia are increasing. Providing similar conditions in this strait and other adjacent waters will be a big and difficult task for Russia, since, according to Japanese analysts, it does not have sufficient experience in such activities. Therefore, Japan in this situation should offer joint management of shipping in this sea area. By deepening bilateral cooperation in this area, it will be possible to advance in solving the territorial problem. This is an additional channel for the work of diplomats of the two countries in this direction.

In any case, understanding how new world transport flows will form is extremely important for Japan, wholly dependent on maritime trade routes. Perhaps these changes in the nature of the sea routes will help to look at the problem of the "northern territories" in a different way, and will create the ground for the emergence of new ideas for its solution. This chance is also not going to be missed by Japan. What new economic and logistical design can arise in this area? This issue is being thoroughly studied by the Ministry of State Lands, Infrastructure and Transport of Japan.
The aforementioned idea of ​​key transshipment ports in Hokkaido is also considered as one of the possible tools for improving the overall climate of the relations of the two countries on economic grounds. True, the role of diplomats is, to a certain extent, pushed aside. The first significant role is the advantage of reducing costs when transporting goods from other continents. In addition, an important role should be played by trained Russian crews with extensive experience in escorting ships along the Northern Sea Route. They will provide the delivery of a significant part of cargo for Asia through the NSR. True, the author of this idea is somewhat pessimistic about the manifestation of the interest of the Japanese government in this issue as one of the potentially possible solutions to the territorial problem. But this path does not exclude from the arsenal of possibilities.


Unified environmental rules for harnessing the potential of the Arctic

This issue in Japan is considered primarily in terms of concluding multilateral conventions that could establish universal rules for the use of space and resources of the Arctic.

The legal regime of the Arctic is radically different from the international legal regime of the Antarctic, since multilateral multilateral treaties are not in effect in the Arctic region, as is the case in the Antarctic (the Antarctic Treaty of 1959). Therefore, the coastal states conduct their own, with no one agreed upon line in the development of the Arctic. So, Russia independently established a titanium state flag. Northern Europe claims to strengthen its military capabilities. China invests huge investments in development of the region. The United States pursues the freedom of navigation in the Arctic Ocean and declares its intentions to develop Arctic subsoil.

The lack of uniform rules of the game is a destabilizing factor in the Arctic. As one of the ways to solve this problem, Japan looks with great hope to the ability of the Arctic Council to urgently develop uniform rules for all, with an emphasis on preserving a vulnerable Arctic environment that would have a “deterrent effect”.

Obviously, increased economic activity in the Arctic region will lead to further melting of ice or other harmful effects as a result of changes in the environment and the state of ecosystems. Here, to say its weighty word and make a contribution that would be appreciated by the international community, Japan intends to do research. A study of the nature of the Arctic and other Arctic problems in Japan involved at least 300 scientists mainly from Hokkaido universities. Their main goal is to develop methods of careful use of the spatial and resource potential of the Arctic.

To summarize, let's say that interest in the Arctic theme in Japan has appeared almost recently, but it is very active. This is evident from the development of clearly delineated plans for the use of the Arctic potential. This is understandable also from how jealously Japan refers to the activation of arctic activity from neighboring Asian states, which also received observer status in the Arctic Council.

It is not by chance that Japan makes not only statements about its Arctic interests, but also makes practical steps in those areas where it has a certain potential. In particular, in the field of scientific research.

In the basis of this approach, most likely, lies the economic security of the state, which can be supported by additional resources.

The circle of Japan's arctic interests is wide and diverse - from the Northern Sea Route to possible progress in resolving the territorial issue with Russia. Enough competition on the field of Arctic problems with Asian neighbors and other countries, as well as the unequal status of Arctic Council members at the same time, is enough - these frictions can be used in Russia's interests, if "arctic puzzles" are put in a profitable picture for us.
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