Russia and Japan Want to Cooperate, Territory Problem Still Unsolved

The issue of the Kurile islands should have been solved in 2000

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi continues his visit to Russia. Some results of this visit can be summed up now, for today was the most important part of the visit: Mr. Koizumi conducted negotiations with the Russian president.

One may not say that those negotiations were over with a serious breakthrough in the field of bilateral relations. No one expected that, really. At least, there could hardly be a comment found, which would prove that Vladimir Putin and Junichiro Koizumi came to consent regarding the issue of Kurile islands. The position of the Japanese prime minister is still the same. After the negotiations were over, Koizumi stated that one should conclude a peace treaty as soon as possible, after the solution of the territorial issue. As it can be seen from this statement, Tokyo sticks to its previous stand.

The position of the Russian government has not had any changes either. Moscow has repeatedly announced on its willingness to discuss the island problem. now negotiations are going to be more intense.

This brings up a question of Russia and Japan’s view regarding the solution of the longstanding dispute. Japan’s Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto suggested a compromising variant to Boris Yeltsin more than five years ago. It was suggested Russia should acknowledge Japan’s sovereignty over the islands in question, but they would remain under Moscow’s administrative governing for an indefinite period of time. Later, this time period was specified to ten or twenty years. Russia said neither yes nor no, but it caused a burst out of ungrounded optimism for Japan. To crown it all, Yeltsin and Hashimoto promised each other to settle the problem of the islands and to conclude the peace treaty in the year 2000. No agreement has been achieved yet. It deems that Tokyo still considers Hashimoto’s variant acceptable. However, Junichiro Koizumi had a harsher opinion, when he took over as the prime minister. He wanted Russia to give away those four Kurile islands to Japan without any negotiations or conditions.

The present joint statement signed by the Russian president and by the Japanese prime minister (regarding the issue of the peace treaty of the year 2000) does not mention any certain dates. The parties are intended to continue their efforts in order to explain the importance of the peace treaty to the societies of the two countries. Both Russia and Japan agreed upon the successive development of the bilateral relations in all the fields of cooperation.

It is not really clear, what Moscow and Tokyo are going to prepare their societies for. It is not ruled out, though, that either Russia or Japan made concessions regarding the territorial problem. Probably, it was a mutual compromise. This way or other, but both the Russian and the Japanese society need to be “prepared,” since Russia wishes to keep the islands as badly as Japan wishes to get them.

As it was expected earlier, Russia and Japan signed a joint declaration in the Kremlin. The document is called the action plan; it is not a legally-binding paper. Yet, the document is extremely important, for it is meant to determine the character of bilateral relations for the nearest future. We would like to point out several basic paragraphs of the action plan:

- to develop economic links between the two countries (it is about time, since the commodity turnover between Russia and Japan makes up only four billion dollars at present) - Russia supports Japan’s candidacy for the position of a constant member of the UN Security Council; Japan supports Russia’s intention to join the WTO; - Consulate services of the two countries will develop a simplified order to grant visas to Russian and Japanese citizens.

As a matter of fact, it would be more correct to say anything precise about the influence of Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to Russia only after some time passes by. Let’s wait and see, taking into consideration the fact that waiting is the key word to characterize the relations between Russia and Japan.

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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