Russia hails Asia ties as it eyes nuclear projects

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 31 2010 08:27 AM | Updated as of Oct 31 2010 04:28 PM

HANOI - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday invited closer ties with Southeast Asia as Moscow positions itself for lucrative nuclear projects in the energy-hungry region.

"Russia is open for such cooperation, including on the creation of various alliances," Medvedev told the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a summit in Vietnam's capital.

Medvedev will Sunday oversee the signing of a multi-billion-euro deal to build Vietnam's first nuclear power plant, one of a number of deals aimed at reviving relations with the Soviet-era Communist ally.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also in Hanoi, said other Asian nations are also keen on striking nuclear power deals with Russia -- which is one of the world powers racing to secure projects in Asia.

"Our partners expressed particular interest in nuclear energy, noting Russia's vast experience in this sphere," Lavrov told reporters.

An official with Russian state nuclear conglomerate Rosatom told AFP the construction of the two-unit plant, in a deal to be signed Sunday, is estimated at over 4.0 billion euros (5.6 billion dollars).

Russia is locked in a global race with competitors including the United States, Japan and France to clinch lucrative worldwide contracts as demand for nuclear energy increases.

Vietnam has approved building the country's first nuclear power stations, and initial plans call for four reactors, with a total capacity of 4,000 megawatts, at least one of which should be operational from 2020.

Lavrov also said Russia and its ASEAN partners were interested in pursuing joint projects in geothermal energy in the region.

"The prospects are quite good," he said.

The Russian president and Asian leaders also discussed "ways to create in the Asia-Pacific region a more perfect security and cooperation architecture," said the Kremlin, which regularly criticises US dominance in world affairs.

The summit adopted a joint statement in which the leaders pledged to strengthen "dialogue partnership" and political cooperation.

Lavrov said the second meeting between Russia and the ASEAN countries demonstrated the two sides had achieved a "mature, advanced partnership".

Their first summit took place in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.

Also in Hanoi, Russia accepted an invitation to join the East Asia Summit from next year, along with the US, in what analysts say is a blow to Chinese attempts to diminish US influence in the region.

The ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The EAS consists of ASEAN plus Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand.

Moscow's presence gives the EAS a more "multipolar flavour", said Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia analyst at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

"Russia can be expected to act independently," he said. "From ASEAN's point of view this mitigates Sino-American rivalry from dominating the EAS."