Russia to ban sushi and sashimi over Kurile dispute?

43441.gifThe annoying behavior of the Japanese when it comes to the ownership of the South Kuriles makes Russia think about providing a response. The country can no longer ignore the demands of the Japanese revenge-seekers.

It is not that Russia is concerned that some ordinary Japanese official (this time the cabinet secretary general Yukio Edano) plans to "virtually" visit "native Japanese Northern Territories." The problem is that this time it seems that the Japanese are moving from words to deeds.

It is not ruled out that in the "territorial issue" Japan will oppose Russia along with Georgia. This hope was expressed by the Georgian Foreign Ministry after a meeting of the Chairman of the Interim Commission of the Parliament of Georgia on restoration of its territorial integrity Shota Malashkhia with Japanese Ambassador to Georgia Masaoshi Kamohara.

The union of the two countries "mistreated" by Russia is not something supernatural. Georgia has long been looking for someone strong to lean on. It hardly counts on getting South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under its control with the help of Japan. The first step is, according to Tbilisi tradition, to talk the Japanese, mad of the "Kuril grief," into making some generous donations for the joint confrontation with "aggressive Russia."

Nonetheless, the union may become reality in the future. What can Russia oppose to it? Of course, Georgia can be ignored. Yet, in an alliance with Japan its weight increases. Therefore, in the first place Russia needs to take countermeasures against the Land of the Rising Sun.

So far, Moscow is ready to roll out "big guns" against the Japanese in the name of Russia's chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko. The health authorities have urged Russians to stop eating sushi and sashimi, as such foods can supposedly cause substantial harm to the health of the Russians. By a strange coincidence, nonconformities were detected in a number of Japanese restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Previously, not without success, "sanitary weapon" was used against Georgian and Moldovan wines, as well as Latvian sprats and American poultry. However, the application of this weapon is hardly a guarantee that the impact will be successful. In one way or another, the "hint" reached the Moldovans and Latvians. With the Georgians it proved much more difficult. Deprived of the Russian market, they were forced to cut down a significant portion of their vineyards, but did not change their position.

Trying to influence Japan by putting pressure on the sushi and sashimi bars will be even less effective. With the same success Russia could influence the Americans by closing McDonald's.

This is not because it would go unnoticed by the two largest economies in the world. This is because the restaurants often belong to anybody but the citizens of the countries they represent.

It would be much more productive if Onishchenko revealed the damage coming from the Japanese goods. For example, saying the products they are made of can be toxic. Of course, Russia would go too far prohibiting the import of audio and video equipment. Almost the entire Russian Far East uses cars from the Land of the Rising Sun. Yet, as a precautionary measure it would make sense to introduce provisional duties on Japanese goods.

Naturally, Vladivostok entrepreneurs who make their living trading cars would be extremely upset. They do not want to buy them at a higher price and, at the same time, are not willing to replace them with low class Korean cars.

But in this case it would be their problem. In addition, there are alternatives to the Japanese goods, and not only Korean. When it comes to public interest, for some time one can forget about the interests of their own pockets.  

Words of sympathy for the "poor" Far East residents are inappropriate. Everyone knows that they make more than a decent living. In any case, increasing financial pressure on Japanese products would first hit Japanese business in whose interest it would be to affect the revenge-seekers entrenched in the government.

However, solving the problem only through the financial impact would be a half-measure, not able to bring the desired effect. Combined political and economic measures are required in this situation.

The Russian leadership is moving in the right direction, inviting Chinese and South Korean businesses to the Southern Kuriles. In this case, both Beijing and Seoul, interested in the proposal, will be acting in the interests of Moscow. Thus, they virtually recognize Russian sovereignty over the entire Kuril chain.

But this is not enough. Russians should strengthen cooperation with their Chinese and South Korean friends, because Japan is dealing Russia trump cards. Japan has territorial disputes not only with Moscow but also with Beijing and Seoul (remember verbal battles over the archipelagos Senkaku (Diaoyu) and Tokdo (Liancourt)). In the first case China rightly disputed the ownership of the islands in Japan because the Japanese took them by force from the Chinese in 1895 and flatly refused to return them to the rightful owner.

In turn, the situation of Tokdo (Liancourt) is nearly identical to the Kuril issue. The Japanese are trying to get these territories "back". Therefore, in defending their territorial integrity from the Japanese revanchists, Moscow, Seoul and Beijing should also enter into a secret alliance, under which each party would fully support the other when it comes to Tokyo claims.

Perhaps someone will doubt that South Korea can go for an alliance with Russia and, especially, with communist China. However, it could become a reality. While we know that Pyongyang and Seoul do not have the best relationship, when it comes to the Japanese claims to the Liancourt Rocks, South and North Korea forgot about the internecine strife.

Sergei Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov