BEIJING, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Starting construction on a natural gas pipeline to China gives Russia the chance to plant its economic flag in the regional economy, Russia's president said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was on hand for the launch ceremony for construction of the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline.
A contract between Russian natural gas company Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. is for 30 years and calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.
"The new trunk gas pipeline will help considerably strengthen economic cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries, first of all, with our key partner China," he said.
Gazprom officials have expressed interest in moving deeper into a growing Asian economy in an effort to offset a stagnant European Union. Europe, for its part, has sought to break the Russian grip on the regional energy sector by securing new sources of natural gas, notably from Azerbaijan.
Putin said the new 2,500-mile gas pipeline to China will tie the Russian energy sector to both poles of the economic world.
"This [pipeline] will give us big advantages in rechanneling gas flows, depending on the world market situation -- either to send more gas to the West and achieve greater effect or to the East," he said Monday.