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INTERNATIONAL > Europe & Eurasia

Advancing Japan-Russia relations

  • August 2016
  • , pp. 22–23
  • Translation

By Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs and member of the House of Representatives


At the Japan-Russia summit meeting held in Sochi recently, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin agreed to develop the entire bilateral relationship across a broad spectrum of areas ranging from the economy and culture to politics, including peace treaty negotiations. They also agreed to reenergize high-level exchanges, including exchanges between the two nations’ leaders and foreign ministers. In this article, I would like to look back on recent developments in Japan-Russia relations and offer my views on Japan’s Russia foreign policy focusing on the Northern Territories issue and economic relations.


Moving forward with peace treaty negotiations


The most important outstanding issue between the two nations is the Northern Territories, and I have placed particular attention on this matter since assuming office as foreign minister. During my visit to Russia last September, I met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the fourth time, and we agreed to recommence peace treaty negotiations, which had in effect been temporarily suspended. During my meeting with Lavrov when he visited Japan this April, we confirmed that we would find a resolution acceptable to both parties, recognizing that Japan and Russia have different historical and legal positions [on this matter].


Based on this foreign ministerial meeting, Prime Minister Abe and President Putin agreed at their May summit meeting in Sochi that they would vigorously promote negotiations taking a “new approach” that goes beyond the thinking of the past. The foreign ministries of the two countries set to engaging in negotiations in June based on this “new approach,” and Japan will persistently advance negotiations with the aim of resolving the issue of the return of the Northern Territories and concluding a peace treaty.


Initiatives related to the cooperation plan


I would like to turn now to economic ties. When I visited Russia last September, I held the 11th meeting of the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. This intergovernmental committee is a forum for comprehensive talks on Japan-Russia economic relations, including the resolution of issues facing companies. At the meeting, which was also attended by corporate representatives, we exchanged views on the progress made on initiatives in fields such as medical care, energy, agriculture, and urban environments.


After this meeting, economic activities flourished, and progress was made on several projects as working-level dialogue was energized and the fifth meeting of the Russia-Japan Advisory Council on Modernization of the Russian Economy was convening in October headed by then Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and then Ambassador for Japan-Russia Relations Chikahito Harada. In addition, the Japan-Russia Trade and Industrial Dialogue was held during Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov’s visit to Japan in February. Then at the Japan-Russia summit meeting in May, Prime Minister Abe proposed an eight-point plan for cooperation to reform Russian industry and the Russian economy. The plan was received warmly by President Putin, and the leaders agreed to engage in detailed discussions to flesh out the plan.


Looking ahead, Prime Minister Abe will attend the Second Eastern Economic Forum (in Vladivostok) in September, and the sixth meeting of the Russia-Japan Advisory Council on Modernization of the Russian Economy is scheduled to be held around the autumn.


The key to developing Japan-Russia economic ties is Japanese companies’ business initiatives with Russia, and the government intends to continue to actively support Japanese companies, including creating projects under the eight-point cooperation plan. Russia for its part is showing great interest in developing projects with Japanese companies, and Putin himself refers to actual projects. Initiatives by Japanese companies are critical for such projects, and the government intends to back inter-company cooperation in a fashion that is mutually beneficial. Japanese companies are strongly calling for improvements to be made to the Russian business environment, and I will urge the Russians to introduce improvements. I will communicate to them Japanese companies’ requests using a variety of opportunities, including the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues, which I head. I will make further effort going forward to develop projects in a way beneficial to Japanese companies.


Developing the entire Japan-Russia relationship


Of course, the scope of Japan-Russia cooperation is not limited to the fields I have just mentioned. Inter-parliamentary exchange as well as cultural and people-to-people interactions are important from the perspective of enhancing understanding between the two countries. It is also important that Japan and Russia build a relationship where they together address the various issues facing the world. With the support and cooperation of the business community, I intend to do everything I can to advance the entire Japan-Russian relationship.

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