Sakhalin To Khabarovsk & Hokkaido Bridge Connections Announced

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Plans To Connect Sakhalin Island To Selikin City in Khabarovsk,  as well as possibly to Hokkaido have been announced by Valery Limarenko, the Governor of Russia’s Sakhalin Region.

Regional and federal authorities suggest that the construction of links between the island and mainland Russia and Japan will allow including Japanese ports into the system of Russian Railways and the Northern Sea Route. Discussions have been on-going for some time, however ownership of the areas are still disputed by both Moscow and Tokyo. Sakhalin was previously Japanese, but the scene of fierce fighting during World War II. Thousands of troops from both sides died there, with the Russian military eventually winning the battles. The island has been Russian ever since. Japan wishes to reclaim it, however Russia is reluctant given perceived Japanese aggression during the War. Both sides maintain a significant amount of war graves there and emotions among Japanese and Russian families run high when it comes to the region.

That said, both Russian President Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Abe agreed at the recent Far Eastern Economic Forum that a solution to nearly 75 years of dispute needed to be resolved. Sakhalin also possesses oil and gas reserves, and Gazprom have facilities on the island in addition to pipelines running through to the Russian mainland and onto Vladivostok.

The northern bridge, coupled with Russia permitting easier access to Japanese nationals to the island, would link Hokkaido and Tokyo with train and freight services that extend across Russia and eventually terminate in Moscow – an uninterrupted rail journey of about 6,000 miles from western Europe to Hokkaido via the Baikal-Amur mainline and the Trans-Siberian railway, with onward connections throughout Europe as far away as Paris and London. At present only one route is open for Japan to access Europe, and that is via Vladivostok, and would take longer.

Japan could also make use of the connectivity to participate more in the Northern Sea Route, which China especially has interest in as shipping goods from China across the Arctic to Europe.

The Hokkaido bridge would span the 45km from Cape Crillon on Sakhalin to Cape Soya at the northern tip of Hokkaido island, Japan.

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“The bridge to Sakhalin will be built by 2035, meaning that the works there have already started,” the governor said, adding that the project’s feasibility study is being drafted now. The construction of the link will require 252.8 billion rubles (US$3.9 billion), Limarenko noted.

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 27 years of operations in China and assists Russian and Foreign investors establish operations into the country. Please contact us at russia@dezshira.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com

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