- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state of Alaska has opened an office in Tokyo to help promote trade and advance a long hoped-for natural gas pipeline project.

The office and the hiring of Masatoshi Nick Shiratori to direct it was only announced to companies doing business with the state on Jan. 12. A copy of the announcement was obtained by The Associated Press.

Shiratori has been under contract since August, working for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

Corporation spokeswoman Rosetta Alcantra says the contract is for up to $130,000 and expires in June. Shiratori will work in a small office, which the state pays about $5,300 a month rent.

Alaska faces a multibillion dollar budget deficit because of chronically low oil prices, and lawmakers began a 90-day session this week that will be dominated by what Gov. Bill Walker has called a financial crisis.

Walker advocates building a multibillion dollar natural gas pipeline to diversify the economy. Previous efforts to build such a pipeline have failed.

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