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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Makes Pitch to Pacific Rim Investors

APPresident Vladimir Putin holding a Thai garland upon arrival at Bangkok's military airport on Sunday.
BANGKOK, Thailand -- President Vladimir Putin hopes to boost his country's lackluster trade with Pacific Rim economies and bolster arms sales in the region -- and he made a pitch Sunday for investors to help develop its oil and gas fields.

"Russia and the Asian Pacific region have a virtually unlimited field for cooperation," Putin said Sunday as he arrived in Bangkok for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He is the first Russian leader to come to Thailand in more than 100 years.

Putin said rapid economic expansion in the region meant greater partnership opportunities and that Russia's vast energy resources can play a role.

"Please come to Russia and establish a dialogue with Russian partners. I believe it will be very wise for the corporate sector to join this process of finding new oil and gas fields," he told a chief executives' meeting alongside the APEC summit, which opens Monday.

Putin will have bilateral meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders of the 21-member group.

He pointed to opportunities stemming from recent oil and nature gas discoveries in eastern Siberia and efforts to upgrade the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

"Russia is ready to contribute to creating a new energy architecture in the Asia-Pacific region," he said, adding that this would allow countries to diversify and secure their supplies.

Russia currently accounts for just 1 percent of APEC trade, and would like to carve out a greater share, Sergei Luzyanin, a leading expert on Pacific region with Moscow's prestigious MGIMO university, said in a recent interview.

About 20 top Russian businessmen are accompanying Putin, and the delegation also includes governors of the Primorye and Krasnoyarsk regions.

Russia also hopes to win APEC's approval for its bid to join the World Trade Organization. Russia and Vietnam are currently the only APEC members outside the WTO.

Putin and Bush are expected to focus heavily on Washington's efforts to win broader international support for rebuilding Iraq, as well as a global response to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

While Russia's economic ties with most of the APEC economies have remained sluggish, it has aggressively pushed for selling more weapons to the region.

China has been the No. 1 customer for Russia's weapons industries since the 1991 Soviet collapse, while Russian arms sales to other Pacific Rim nations had been rare until this year, which saw important weapons deals with Malaysia and Indonesia.

But Putin said he hoped for APEC action on illicit arms sales, as well as illegal immigration and drug trafficking.