Thu, Jun 21, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Taiwan looks to Russia to diversify oil sources

A CHALLENGE While buying oil from Russia could lower reliance on the Middle East, a local official and executive admitted that supply stability and quality were a concern

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, MOSCOW

Taiwan would like to import crude oil from Russia to help diversify its sources of oil imports, a visiting Taiwanese official said in Moscow yesterday.

As imports account for 99.8 percent of Taiwan's crude oil consumption, securing stable oil supplies is a top concern, Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), chairman of the Taiwan Futures Exchange and head of the private Taiwan-Russia Association (台俄協會), said in an interview with a Moscow media outlet.

Taiwan hopes it can import crude oil from Russia so as to lower reliance on imports from the Middle East, an area rife with social instability and military disturbances, Wu said.

Importing crude oil from Russia, however, is not an easy task, Wu said, adding that in the past, importers had to contend with quality and supply stability concerns in light of difficulties such as transporting crude oil from the Ural Mountains area and the Russian far east.

Wu urged the Russian government to seriously consider cooperating with Taiwan over these issues to benefit both sides.

State-run CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), the nation's largest oil refiner, agreed that the company is always looking for new oil sources to reduce its reliance on imports from the Middle East, where supply may be disrupted by political instability.

"But the problem with importing oil from Russia is the higher transportation cost," CPC vice president Tsao Mihn (曹明) said by telephone yesterday.

Transporting oil from the Middle East to Taiwan takes about 17 days, while that from Russia takes about 30 days, making imports from Russia less competitive in terms of time and shipping cost, Tsao said.

If the Russian authorities can construct an oil pipeline to Vladivostok, Russia's largest port on the Pacific coast which is closer to Taiwan, the company may consider purchasing oil from Russia, Tsao said.

Meanwhile, Wu, a former vice premier, said that Taiwan sits in a strategically important location in terms of regional security and crude oil imports, adding that all oil tankers transporting imported crude oil for Japan and South Korea pass through the Taiwan Strait.

Against this backdrop, Beijing's constant threat to use force against Taiwan to solve cross-strait differences could also be viewed as threats to the security and stability of other countries in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific area, he said.

Wu said that since Russia maintains close ties to China, Moscow could play an important role in influencing the development of cross-strait relations.

Wu and a Taiwanese delegation arrived in Moscow last week on a business trip. Over the past several days, they have participated in a Taiwan-Russia cooperation forum and have signed a memorandum of understanding and an agreement with public and private Russian organizations to bolster bilateral exchanges between the two countries.

Additional reporting by Jessie Ho

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