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Russia removes entry permit requirement for some parts of Northern Territories

  • December 7, 2016
  • , Asahi , p. 13
  • JMH Translation

On Dec. 4, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, which oversees Russia’s border control, removed some parts of the Northern Territories from the list of “border areas” requiring an entry permit for access, according to media in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East. Even Russians used to be required to obtain permits to enter these areas, but now Russians and foreigners alike can enter them without a permit. The Federal Security Service said the aim is to attract tourists to the area.


However, “joint economic activities” in the Northern Territories are one of the main items on the agenda for the Japan-Russia summit to take place in mid-December, so it is thought that the move is also aimed at rattling Japan.


The areas no longer requiring entry permits are the airports and major roads on Etorofu and Kunashiri Islands in addition to Kurilsk (Japanese name: Shana) on Etorofu Island and Yuzhno-Kurilsk (Japanese name: Furukamappu) on Kunashiri Island. Because ports are not included, travel to the areas will be by air. In the Chishima Islands, Severo-Kurilsk (Japanese name: Kashiwabara) on the island of Paramushir as well as part of that island’s seacoast have also been exempted from the entry permit requirement.


Russia plans to develop tourism, resources, and other industries for the economic development of the Kuril Islands (the Russian name for the Chishima Islands and the Northern Territories). If it is easy for Russians and for visa-holding foreigners to enter the areas, it may be easy to attract companies from outside the area, including foreign companies.


For some time now, Russia has been urging Japanese companies to invest in the Northern Territories. Sovereignty issues arise in Japan-Russia joint economic activities, but there is also a chance that “liberalizing” the ability to visit some areas will bolster the negotiations.


In January, Yury Trutnev, deputy prime minister and presidential plenipotentiary envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, said that “Russia will look for another partner if Japan indicates it is not interested.” By hinting at the possibility of expanding cooperation with China and South Korea, it is thought that Trutnev intended to prompt Japan to make a decision.


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