Session 6:  Sino–Japanese Cooperation on the Conservation of the Amur River [Heilong Jiang]

The Designation of the Sea of Okhotsk Region and the Cooperative Relationships with Each of the Neighboring Countries

Susumu Yoshida
Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA)

1. The Sea of Okhotsk and the Cooperation of the Nations Concerned

 For the last few years, in an initiative by the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau and Hokkaido University, an international conference on the Sea of Okhotsk has been held and scientific and technical exchange has taken place. The United Nations, triggered by the explosions at a chemical plant in Jilin City in November 2005, took up as an issue research into the prevention of pollution1 of the Songhua, Ussuri, and Amur (Heilong Jiang) rivers.
According to the research of Hokkaido University, the drift ice leaving the Amur River for the sea flows on to Monbetsu in Hokkaido. The Monbetsu area, being a famous fishing ground, supplies seafood to the tables of Japan. In addition there is the Shiretoko ecosystem which was registered as a Natural World Heritage Site. Jilin, Harbin, Khabarovsk and Hokkaido are joined by an environmental bond.
Considering matters from the perspective of the environmental protection of the Sea of Okhotsk region, an international monitoring system is necessary which: tabulates the data from tests on wastewater coming from the cities located on the Songhua, Ussuri and Amur rivers and other small and medium-sized cities and industrial hubs together with the data from water-quality tests at the point where the Amur meets the sea and at Monbetsu; controls the whole; and allows the producing of forecast data.
Hokkaido possesses the geographical characteristic of being situated at a juncture connecting North America, Europe and East Asia. Consequently they raised the formation of a “Northern International Exchange Sphere” as one major measure in the Seventh-Term Comprehensive Development Plan of Hokkaido (4 July 2008). Russia’s Far East, China’s Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces and Japan’s Hokkaido are located in the north and have many things in common in agriculture, livestock-raising, and other industries. Therefore, cooperative relationships have continued to be formed in the economic and societal spheres too.
In March this year I visited Heilongjiang Province at the request of its governor Li Zhanshu, and I participated in an investigative commission of 20 concerned persons, with a topic of what to do to further deepen relations with Japan. At that time what constantly came from the concerned parties, including Vice Governor Du Jiahao, was a comparison of the province with Hokkaido. The concrete topics were the problems of the development of agriculture and livestock-raising, food processing, the attraction of capital from warm regions, and administrative control.
The relationship between Hokkaido and Sakhalin is deeper still. In the relations regarding the natural gas and oil development on Sakhalin’s continental shelf, Hokkaido has become a rear base2 for supporting the development of Sakhalin I and Sakhalin II. Oil from Sakhalin I (250,000 barrels per day) has been supplied to Japan since October 2006, oil from Sakhalin II (150,000 barrels per day) since 13 December 2008, and natural gas since 29 March this year.
In the repair work of the area stricken by the August 2007 Sakhalin earthquake also, Hokkaido construction contractors have played a large role. The repairing of the harbor of Nevelsk is example of this. In addition, Hokkaido construction contractors have also taken part in the construction of liquefiers for Sakhalin II and of condominiums and houses.
Hokkaido has tied up friendship partnerships with Sakhalin Oblast and Heilongjiang Province, has formulated an economic cooperation development program with the Far Eastern region—Sakhalin Oblast, Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai—and has carried out exchange based upon that. In particular in relations with Russia, a consulate-general of Japan, the Hokkaido Government Sakhalin Representative Office, and a Hokkaido business center were established in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk in 2001, and in 2002 a Sakhalin representative office was set up in Wakkanai. In air routes the desire is also great for the establishment of routes linking Vladivostok and Khabarovsk with Hokkaido.
In this way mutual relationships don’t stop at environmental protection, but are moving toward scientific and technological exchange, exchange between local authorities, and in addition, the expansion of economic and trade relations.

2. The Relationship with the Sea of Japan

 To the south the Sea of Okhotsk turns into the Sea of Japan. Regarding the economic exchange of the Japan-Sea-rim region, with the impetus from the staging of the Northeast Asia Economic Forum in Changchun in 1990 the UNDP took up the Tumen River project in the following year of 1991. Meanwhile, the Northeast Asia International Conference for Economic Development in Niigata has already logged 19 stagings since 1990. A flow has been achieved driving the exchange of the Northeast Asia Economic Forum and Northeast Asia International Conference for Economic Development. Recently, international conferences related to Northeast Asia have come to be held in Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Harbin and Changchun.
At Niigata’s Northeast Asia International Conference for Economic Development policy proposals have been made regarding current analysis and the future prospects of such sectors as transportation, energy, the environment, trade and investment, food, and finance.
Moreover, regarding the environmental protection that the United Nations is involved in, its target area is broader than the Sea of Japan; the Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center in Toyama Prefecture has been designated a regional activity center of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP); and the Acid Deposition and Oxidant Research Center in Niigata Prefecture has been designated a network center of the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET).
As for the rivers of this region, the pollution of the Tumen River, which flows between China and the DPRK, is a cause for concern. The domestic wastewater from many small and medium-sized cities and the industrial wastewater (in part improved with support from Finland) from paper-making plants on the Chinese side, and the industrial wastewater from the Musan iron mine and non-ferrous metal mines from the DPRK side, washes into the river. When one considers the future of the Tumen River, pollution countermeasures become an issue.

3. The Relationship with the Northeast Asian Local Economic Subregion

 As already mentioned, Russia, China and Japan are involved in the Sea of Okhotsk region. This region constitutes a part of the Northeast Asian local economic subregion.
The cooperative relations among the concerned Northeast Asian nations are continuing to expand toward multifaceted cooperation that includes the economic and societal sectors, and not just the scientific and technological sectors, such as environmental protection, energy, energy conservation, food, transportation and tourism, trade and investment, and finance.
In the energy sector, for example, the construction of an energy community has become one aim. The formation of a local economic subregion is being called for, with the cooperation for each sector forming a pillar thereof.

4. The Policies for Aiming toward the Development of Exchange in the Sea of Okhotsk Region

 In order to create a common awareness of the ecological conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk, of the various scientific and technological problems surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk, and of the challenges for economic cooperation, the countries involved in this region should start with holding a regular gathering. This is tentatively called “The Sea of Okhotsk Region International Cooperation Conference”.
First of all cooperation in the Sea of Okhotsk region should be designated a part of the cooperation in the Northeast Asian local economic subregion. In order to put an international cooperation conference into practice, a preparatory committee, to be formed from representatives of the countries concerned, should be organized. This committee should make clear the direction for each conference, and the problem areas to be tackled. For financing, each country should temporarily cover the funding of its activities by itself. Additionally, linking up with organizations affiliated to the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) can be considered.

1 On 13 November 2005 explosions occurred at a chemical plant in Jilin, and benzene was discharged. On 21 November Harbin took the measure of turning off the water supply for four days. On 25 November a state of emergency went into effect in Khabarovsk. In Khabarovsk they undertook a clean-up using activated charcoal.

2 Ishikari, Wakkanai, Otaru, Hakodate, Soya, Rumoi, Abashiri, and others, have participated as rear support-bases for the Sakhalin oil and gas development.