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Japanese interests in the Arctic: from the analysis of the Arctic ecosystem to the port of Tomakomai
Not being a near-Arctic state, Japan does not want to stay away from the world processes of assessing, developing and using the resources and capabilities of the Arctic region, using for this purpose its acquired status of an "observer" in the International Arctic Council
Japan's sincere interest in the problems of the Arctic, and primarily in the Northern Sea Route (NSR), is evidenced by the creation in 2012 of the parliamentary League for the security of the NSR, chaired by Prime Minister Abe S. The active work of the League began after this Japan's East Asian neighbors, China and the Republic of Korea, began to closely tackle the issue.
These include 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 the waters of the Arctic seas, to obtain new scientific data on marine biological resources, as well as to predict long-term climate changes, as well as expanding 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.
The first reports on the successful escort of a tanker loaded with liquefied gas along the Northern Sea Route, which was carried out by the Russian state corporation Gazprom, were published by the Japanese media three years ago. The final destination of delivery was the Japanese port of Kita-Kyushu. The Norwegian tanker leased by Gazprom left the Norwegian port of Hammerfest on November 7, 2012 and arrived at its destination on December 5, 2012. In the polar seas of Russia, the pilotage of the tanker was provided by an atomic icebreaker.
After that, the Japanese public-private partnership began to show increased attention to the possibility of using the NSR, highlighting the following key points: reducing travel time and transportation costs; Hokkaido, with its ports, can become the front gate of this important transport artery; aggravation of the contradictions of the interested countries over the spaces 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.
It is no coincidence that Japan not only makes statements about its Arctic interests, but also takes practical steps in those areas where it has a certain potential. In particular, in the field of scientific research.
Japanese experts put forward the following rationale for protecting Japanese economic interests. The NSR will most likely be open for shipping 5 months a year. The port of Tomakomai is located at such a distance, for example, from Murmansk, which large container ships can overcome in two weeks. That is, it is quite possible to carry out a roundtrip flight per month. South Korean or Chinese ports, and even Japanese ports further south, are significantly reducing the number of voyages. Therefore, the port of Tomakomai could become a transshipment point of the NSR at a point where northern conditions will no longer become a limitation of navigation. And the delivered goods can be transported from this port further - to the southern regions of Asia.
Hokkaido can play another, auxiliary role. The ports of eastern Hokkaido - Kushiro and Nemuro - could play the role of ports of refuge for ships at sea in case of severe storms.