TOKYO: A Russian business lobby group made a push on Tuesday for Japanese investment as its economy struggles under Western sanctions linked to its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Even as the United States and Europe delayed another round of measures while they push a peace plan, Moscow is looking for cash to replace money that has fled, hoping to tempt resource-poor Japan with oil and gas.
“Now is the time for Japanese and Russian businesses to see a sunrise — rather than a sunset — of a day of victory for us,” Alexey Repik, President of the Russian-Japanese Business Council told a news conference ahead of a business meeting.
“What we’ve been working together [on]in recent years will bear fruit a few years later because both of us share a long-term viewpoint,” he said.
The comments came as European Union foreign ministers postponed new sanctions against Russia for a week to boost the chances of success at a four-way summit on Wednesday aimed at brokering peace in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists are fighting Kiev’s forces.
US President Barack Obama on Monday agreed to hold off a controversial decision on sending arms to Ukraine until German-led efforts to broker a ceasefire with Russia are given a chance as he hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.
Japan’s position with Moscow is a delicate one; while it must stand behind Washington, its chief ally, it is keen to tap much-needed commodities from Russia’s far east.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would also like to resolve a decades-long territorial row that has prevented the signing of a peace treaty between Tokyo and Moscow.
The two sides are at odds over Russian-administered islands off Japan’s far north, annexed by Soviet troops in the dying months of World War II.
Repik said the international squeeze on Russia — the economy is expected to shrink three percent in 2015 owing to collapsing oil prices and a capital flight — presented a possible opportunity for Japan.
“There are two sides to a coin. It makes it more appealing for Russia and Japan to jointly invest in production” in Russia because of the relative falling cost of Russian labor, he said.