TOKYO, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A Japanese energy company said it was exploring the options to work alongside one of Russia's larger gas players on liquefied natural gas options.
Japanese company Marubeni Corp. said it signed a memorandum of understanding with Novatek, Russia's largest independent natural gas company. Under the terms of the understanding, both sides will explore options for supplies of liquefied natural gas possibly from an Arctic line.
"By further deepening its cooperative relationship with Novatek through energy resources co-development in Russia and trade in hydrocarbon resources, Marubeni is committed to contributing not only to the mutually beneficial relationship between Japan and Russia, but to the stable supply of energy to Japan," the Japanese company said in a statement.
The agreement follows a series of meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both sides agreed to sweeping economic deals, though disagreed over disputed territorial claims over islands in the Western Pacific.
Putin took part in a joint business forum Friday in Tokyo. He told representatives there that Japan was an important partner in the Asia-Pacific region despite acrimony over issues related to peace. Talks with Abe, he said, were at times difficult.
"At the same time, we regretted to note that trade between our countries has been declining recently," he said. "We agreed that we can put bilateral trade back on the path of sustainable growth."
Oil and natural gas are among Russia's top export commodities.
Japan started taking on more natural gas to make up for the loss of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in 2011. With the restart of some reactors, however, demand for gas could start moving lower on sector diversity and economic grounds.
The Organization Economic Cooperation and Development in June said Japan continues its economic contraction, slipping from 0.7 percent growth to 0.4 percent in 2017.