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Russia wary of expectations in Japan for return of Northern Territories

By Takayuki Tanaka in Sochi, Russia


Russia takes the view that the “approach based on new ideas” proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the Northern Territories issue does not mean progress in drawing up any concrete proposals. It appears to be wary that public expectation in Japan may surge unrealistically.


A source traveling with President Vladimir Putin told Nihon Keizai Shimbun that the main point of the new approach is to “admit the impasse in bilateral negotiations so far and indicate the desire to make improvements.” He explained that this means that there will be expanded talks at various levels.


Russia is adopting a strategy of making Japan commit to developing Japan-Russia economic cooperation using the territorial talks as leverage. Even in a closed door one-on-one meeting with Abe, there is little merit for Putin to go into in-depth discussion on a compromise on the territorial issue in a situation where the implementation of Japan’s cooperation proposals was still uncertain.


The Russian media reported on Abe’s eight proposals with little enthusiasm. The Russian business paper Kommersant reported in its May 7 edition that experts offered the analysis that Abe [made the proposals] because “he needed to show the people that he is willing to look for an approach to major issues before the national election in July.”

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