By Keita Ikeda in Yuzkno Sakhalinsk
The Japanese public-private mission studying joint economic activities by Japan and Russia in the Northern Territories met with Governor Oleg Kozhemyako and other officials of the Sakhalin Oblast, which has jurisdiction over the Northern Islands, at the regional government office on May 31. The governor voiced his support for the field study in the Northern Territories starting on June 27. The two governments will step up efforts to finalize the schedule and inspection sites.
An expanded group of about 100 representatives of companies in both countries and other people met on May 31 following several small group meetings. Views were also exchanged at subcommittee sessions, with the meetings lasting a total of five hours. The Russian side reportedly presented new concrete proposals, showing interest in Japanese retail businesses and restaurants.
Special adviser to the prime minister Eiichi Hasegawa, who heads the mission, told reporters after the meetings: “[The Russian side] responded positively. The groundwork has been laid (for the field study in the Northern Territories).”
However, the Japanese side is also concerned that “the priority of this issue is now lower because Russia is preoccupied with Syria and other issues,” according to a Japanese government source. Even if the two countries are able to agree on specific projects, discussions on a “special system” that will not undermine the two governments’ legal positions will continue. Prospects remain uncertain for negotiations to sign a peace treaty, which is the ultimate goal of the joint economic activities.