MOSCOW -- Russia has proposed building a pipeline to transport natural gas to Japan, an offer apparently aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two countries amid stiff economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.
The plan to connect the gas-rich Russian island of Sakhalin with the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido was presented last month, according to diplomatic sources. This would mark the first pipeline between Japan and another country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could discuss the proposal when they meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11.
By dangling low-priced Russian gas to Japan, Russia seems to be trying to drive a wedge between Group of Seven members as they turn up the pressure on Moscow over Ukraine.
But some in the Japanese government are cautious about entering into a new energy deal with Russia as relations continue to worsen between Moscow and Washington, a key ally of Tokyo.
"Construction of a pipeline will depend on the Ukraine issue and negotiations over the Northern Territories," a senior official in the Japanese foreign ministry said, referring to the Russian-controlled islands claimed by Japan.