Russia continues pivot to Asia-Pacific

Updated: 2013-11-15 01:13

By Zhao Yanrong (China Daily)

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Putin signs cooperation agreements on four-day trip to Hanoi and Seoul

Russian President Vladimir Putin's charm offensive in Asia-Pacific countries this week underscores Moscow's pivot toward the region, which will lead to a new balance of power in the Asia-Pacific rim, observers said.

The constructive role that Russia plays in the region will benefit everyone in the area, including China, they added.

During his four-day visit to Vietnam and South Korea this week, Putin signed a series of documents to enhance Russia's cooperation with Hanoi and Seoul in the economic, energy, military and humanitarian sectors.

Since the global economic crisis, the Asia-Pacific region has become a more important political and economic factor in the world, said Feng Yujun, director of the Institute of Russian Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"While major powers such as the United States are shifting their focus to the region and China is exerting an increasing influence on its neighbors, Russia, which considers itself as a global power, also wants to enhance its presence in the region," Feng said.

Yang Cheng, deputy director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said Moscow's pivot toward the region is also due to its domestic energy demands.

"Because resources in western Russia are almost depleted, Moscow must turn to the Far East for more energy that can meet the billions of dollars of spending on a military buildup that Putin promised during presidential election," Yang said.

"A good relationship with the Asia-Pacific region will facilitate its development in the Far East," he added.

Feng said Putin's trip is just one part of Russia's strategic shift to the region.

China and Russia issued a joint statement on deepening their comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership when President Xi Jinping visited Russia in March.

Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to strengthen their military cooperation in October, as the two former Soviet republics aim to further develop their strategic partnership.

Before Putin's trip this week, Russia and Japan held foreign and defense ministerial meetings earlier this month in Tokyo to improve bilateral defense exchanges.

"Russia's movements in the Asia-Pacific region have continuity. They have established their own regional strategy. Russia will become a more important force in the region in the future," Feng added.

During Putin's visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, the Russian leader and his Vietnamese counterpart, Truong Tan Sang, witnessed the signing of a series of documents that will enhance their cooperation in various fields, including, energy, education, science, technology, and the military.

Both leaders have made energy cooperation a priority in developing bilateral relations, and Russia will sell more modern military weapons and equipment to Vietnam.

In Seoul, strengthening trade and other economic links is high on Putin's agenda.

"Russia's diplomacy in the region will no longer be centered on China," Yang said. "Instead, it will be a diversified one, guided by its economic and trade cooperation with Asian countries, and it can also assist its peaceful development of Siberia."

Feng said that Russia considers the Asia-Pacific region to be a big market for its energy resources and sees opportunities to develop multilateral cooperation in sectors like oil, gas, nuclear energy and mining in the region.