(Sankei: November 10, 2015 – p. 5)
It was learned on Nov. 9 that the government is engaged in final coordination to hold a Japan-Russia summit to arrange for President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit taking place in Manila on Nov. 18-19. Japan is giving priority to making progress in the Northern Territories negotiations and will leave the timing of the visit to a political decision by the Russian presidential office. If the visit is to take place next year after a considerable period of time, the two sides will continue to hold high- level dialogue, such as by inviting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Japan, in the meantime. Putin’s visit to Japan will depend very much on his willingness to negotiate the territorial issue.
The planned Japan-Russia summit will promote negotiations for concluding a peace treaty, as well as reaffirm the continuation of dialogue at the leader level. If Putin fails to indicate when he will visit Japan, the two leaders will agree on realizing this visit at the “most appropriate time.”
The Japanese government regards Putin’s visit as a rare opportunity for settling the issue of sovereignty over the Northern Territories. It would like to use investment and technology transfer as incentives to draw concessions from Russia.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had sounded out Putin regarding a visit to Japan in 2014 at their summit meeting during his visit to Russia in 2013. However, this was postponed to 2015 due to intensifying conflict between the G7 and Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Subsequently, Russia has also failed to resolve its differences with the G7 over such issues as Syria. A source on Japan-Russia diplomacy observes that “public opinion in Russia is in favor of a strong government,” so the conditions are not conducive for making progress in the territorial talks.
The Japanese government will accept Putin’s decision on the timing of his visit. In addition to the two foreign ministers, it will arrange for exchange of visits between National Security Secretariat chief Shotaro Yachi and Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, a close confidant of Putin.
The Japanese government is not insisting on a particular timeframe for Putin’s visit because it reckons that “Putin is the only person who can make a decision on the territorial issue,” according to a source at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence (Kantei). Even if Putin engages in territorial negotiations, it will be difficult to achieve any progress if the conditions are not right.
The U.S. government is pressuring Japan on Putin’s visit. However, a senior Foreign Ministry official says that, “Territorial issues should be resolved by the concerned parties in principle. The U.S. has indicated its understanding unofficially.”
Abe is also coordinating to hold bilateral summits with the U.S., China, Malaysia (ASEAN Summit host), the Philippines, and other countries on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, the ASEAN Summit, and other international conferences from Nov. 15.