Concerns are growing within the Japanese government that the U.S. suspension of talks with Russia over a ceasefire deal in Syria may affect ongoing negotiations between Japan and Russia on the conclusion of a peace treaty. There is a possibility that the U.S. may ask its ally to keep its distance from Russia. Japan will explain again to the U.S. the significance of resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty in order to seek understanding.
Up until now, the U.S. has led efforts to impose sanctions on Russia to blame its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in the southern part of Ukraine and has been nervous about Japan’s approach to Russia. Expectations had initially risen within the Japanese government that the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Syria could “make it easy for Japan to negotiate with Russia,” but this is turning into concern that “the suspension of ceasefire talks could change the tide.”
Japan has already conveyed to the U.S. that it will negotiate with Russia over a peace treaty deal independent from the Ukraine issue and won a certain level of understanding. With regard to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s scheduled visit to Japan in December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said “we have basically obtained consent” from the U.S.
A senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out: “The U.S. worries more about Japan’s withdrawal from sanctions against Russia than Syrian developments.” As this indicates, the view is widely shared among Japanese government officials that the impact of the Syrian issue on Japan’s negotiations with Russia will be limited. But the conflict between the U.S. and Russia “will not have a positive impact on Japan-Russia talks,” said a MOFA source. The Japanese government is closely watching to see how the situation develops. (Abridged)