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Diplomatic bargaining heating up over Putin’s visit to Japan

  • 2015-07-27 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: July 25, 2015 – p.4)

 

 With respect to Russian Prime Minister Medvedev’s announcement of his intention to visit the Northern Territories, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in the press conference held on July 24, “The visit is unacceptable.” Bearing in mind President Putin’s visit to Japan within this year, it seems that the Russian side attempted to pressure Japan, which aims to make progress in the Northern Territories issue. While clarifying that the Japanese government cannot accept Medvedev’s visit to the Northern Territories, Tokyo will apparently continue coordinating with Russia toward Putin’s visit to Japan. Bargaining between the two countries seems to continue.

 

 Prime Minister Medvedev announced in a cabinet meeting held on July 23 his intention to visit the Kuril Islands including the Northern Territories. Without mentioning the specific timing of the visit, the prime minister explained that he will inspect the economic situation, as well as saying, “The visit will also be for protecting our national border.”

 

 Through its embassy in Moscow the Japanese government called on July 23 for the cancellation of the visit and conveyed to the Russian government its concern about the announcement. Suga said in the press conference on July 24, “The visit is incompatible with the Japanese government’s position on the Northern Territories and will hurt the Japanese people’s feelings.

 

 Russia has become active in the Northern Territories. The Border Guard Service of Russia seized a Japanese commercial fishing boat from Hokkaido in the vicinity of the Northern Territories on July 17. The Russian Health Minister visited Shikotan Island on July 18.

 

 A source familiar with the Japan-Russian relationship views the recent moves as “Russia’s bargaining.” With sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine issue hurting the Russian economy, it is apparent that Moscow hopes to elicit economic cooperation from Japan. An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on July 24, “If Russia desires to improve bilateral relations, Moscow should refrain from such actions.”

 

 Neither the Japanese nor the Russian government has altered its policy aiming to realize President Putin’s visit to Japan within the year. The two governments will continue their dialogue toward Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Russia at the end of August. Kishida said in a press conference regarding his visit to Russia, “There is no change in our policy of taking various aspects into consideration.”

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