Japan and South Korea are pushing their companies to team up in Russia to stem China’s growing economic power there, in an unexpected consequence of Moscow’s stand-off with the west.
The embassies of Japan and Korea have in recent weeks hosted companies from both countries with investments in Russia for discussions and plan further meetings this year, according to diplomats and company executives.
“Japanese and Korean companies in Russia should consider each other as partners now that China is getting stronger and stronger,” said a Japanese diplomat.
“Russia’s decision to seek a much closer partnership with China can only create pressure on our economic interests. Our companies can counter this.”
The initiative follows Moscow’s move to crank up trade, financial and investment relations with China as economic ties with Europe, its main source of foreign investment, suffer from the stand-off over Ukraine.
Since the US and the EU slapped sanctions on Russian government officials and businessmen, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly singled out China as an important economic partner.
His signing of a $400bn gas export deal in May, which Russian state group Gazprom had previously failed to close with its Chinese partner for more than a decade, is seen as a signal of a new willingness in Moscow to make concessions to receive access to the Chinese market and Chinese funds.
Last week, Russian and Chinese companies and regions signed contracts valued at $3.15bn at a bilateral trade fair, with most of the funds earmarked for trade with Russia’s far east, the region between Lake Baikal and the Pacific Ocean.
This has caused alarm in Tokyo and Seoul. This year, Park Byung-hwan, a Korean diplomat in Moscow, warned that China was gaining a “huge impact on the region” and called Chinese companies’ growing presence there a threat.
Additional reporting by Simon Mundy in Seoul and Ben McLannahan in Tokyo
西蒙?芒迪(Simon Mundy)首尔，本?麦克兰纳汗(Ben McLannahan)东京补充报道