Report: Russia seeks to expand rail network to Japan’s Hokkaido Island

TOKYO,  Russia wants to build bridges to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, according to a Japanese press report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly interested in expanding the Trans-Siberian railway to Japan. File Photo by Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock

The bridge would connect Japanese territory to the Trans-Siberian railway, the 5,800-mile network connecting Moscow to the Russian Far East, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said such an expansion would lead to loads of Japanese cargo being transported across the railway, according to the Sankei.

The proposal from Moscow was part of negotiations for economic cooperation and other engagement initiatives that may have taken place while the two sides were discussing a resolution to the Kuril Islands dispute.

There had been talks about the islands at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 2-3, when Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abeto discuss the dispute.

The railway proposal includes plans for the construction of either bridges or tunnels across the 4-mile Strait of Tatary and the 26-mile La Perouse, or Soya Strait, according to the report.

Other plans include converting the tracks between Kazan, in the Volga economic region, and Vladivostok, into a high-speed railway.

A high-speed system already exists between Kazan and Moscow.

Russia is also seeking to boost tourism and promote people-to-people exchange through the project. More than 50 projects related to the rail initiative could be launched, according to the Sankei.

By Elizabeth Shim