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Japan needs solid strategy for territorial talks with Russia

Publication Date : 11-09-2012

 

Before holding further territorial talks with Russia, Japan must firstly strengthen the base of its negotiation stance.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit meeting in Vladivostok in Far East Russia. The two leaders confirmed talks would continue over the Russian-held northern territories off Hokkaido.

Tokyo and Moscow will deepen talks on the islands at a vice-ministerial meeting scheduled for autumn and when the Japanese prime minister visits Russia in December.

Recent friction with China and South Korea over the Senkaku and Takeshima islands has prompted hard-hitting questions about Japan's stance over its own sovereignty and territory. With Russia also, the government must work persistently to find a solution to the northern territories dispute based on historical facts and documents.

The latest talks between Noda and Putin followed their first meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June, where they agreed to "revive" long-stalled talks on the territorial issue.

Quiet, constructive talks needed

During the talks, Noda told Putin "consideration must be paid to public sentiment" in Japan as a condition for the territorial negotiations. He also requested the Russian leader hold discussions "in a quiet and constructive environment."

Noda's remarks apparently were referring to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's provocative landing on Kunashiri--one of the islands in the northern territories--in July. Moscow must not be allowed to "Russianise" the territories by faits accomplis with unilateral development of them, at a time when talks on the islands are poised to resume.

Putin agreed with Noda that the issue should be solved in a quiet atmosphere without stirring up public sentiment. We think Putin should do what he said.

In economic discussions, Noda welcomed Russia's recent entry to the World Trade Organisation. He also said Japan will cooperate in the development of Siberia in the Russian Far East if mutual trust is further enhanced.

Putin expressed his expectation for increased investment from Japan. However, we hope Moscow will first improve Russia's investment climate, including the abolition of trade barriers.

After their talks, the two leaders witnessed a signing ceremony of a memorandum on construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal near Vladivostok, a project that Japanese firms and the Russian energy company Gazprom are working on.

Mutual benefits await

Russia is developing natural resources in its Far East region. Japan's demand for LNG has increased since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, so ensuring a stable supply of the fuel for thermal power generation and importing the gas from a wider array of countries have become important issues for Japan. Energy cooperation will have huge merits for Japan and Russia.

Tokyo and Moscow also inked a treaty on measures to control poaching and smuggling of crabs and other marine products in the Okhotsk Sea.

These are not the only fields in which Japan and Russia can jointly work and benefit. Bilateral relations have strategic importance for both countries when it comes to dealing with China, which is expanding both economically and militarily.

We think Japan and Russia should deepen their interdependence because it could lead to a solution to the dispute over the northern territories.

 

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