A pact is set to help meet the region's power needs and reduce reliance on oil An initiative to enhance regional energy security through joint exploration, develop renewable energy sources and build infrastructure is expected to be adopted at a meeting in Qingdao this week. The Qingdao Initiative is expected to be formally adopted by the 22 countries taking part in the third Asian Co-operation Dialogue. Spearheaded by Bahrain, Indonesia and the Philippines, the initiative has been welcomed by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. 'We need to accept the reality that we no longer live in an era of cheap oil prices,' Mr Surakiart said. Thailand is researching ways to develop renewable resources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. China, India and Japan - the engine of growth in Asia - depend on imported oil. The quest for energy security would help ensure the future economic growth and prosperity of Asia, said Najmuddin Shaikh, former Pakistani secretary of foreign affairs. The spectre of long-term high oil prices could become the catalyst to force Asian countries to think seriously about investing in pipelines and power grids which had been regarded as uneconomical in the time of cheap oil prices, Mr Shaikh said. Building cross-regional infrastructure, which requires financing and regulatory harmonisation, could also be a key factor in the region's future economic integration. Sorajak Kasemsuvan, Thailand's vice-minister of foreign affairs, said energy, agriculture and tourism would be the main areas of discussion when the meeting started today. Long Yongtu , secretary general of the Boao Forum for Asia which is a sponsor of the meeting, said the rise of 'Asian awareness' against the background of globalisation had strengthened the urgency of co-operation. But he said Asia's regional co-operation was open to the world and the energy co-operation would not lead to exclusive discounts to member countries or other preferential treatment. The Asian Co-operation Dialogue was initiated by the prime minister of Thailand in June 2002. It has grown from the original 17 countries to 22. The forum represents the governmental part of regional co-operation, in contrast with the Boao Forum for Asia, launched two months earlier, which involves non-governmental dialogue. The third round of six-party talks to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis is expected to be on the agenda, along with other issues of common concern, when foreign ministers from China, Japan and South Korea hold their first trilateral meeting after today's formal meeting. Whether North Korea has a second nuclear programme of highly enriched uranium was likely to be the focus of discussion in this round of talks, analysts said. The US alleges that North Korea has a highly enriched uranium programme in addition to the reprocessing of spent fuel rods, but China has openly cast doubt on the claim.