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Editorial: Should Japan remain quiet in the face of Russia’s intimidating remarks on Northern Territories?

  • September 9, 2017
  • , Sankei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

Did Japan clearly tell Russia what needs to be rectified? Can Japan afford to leave its foreign policy with Russia as it is?


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held his 19th round of summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even before the question of whether the meeting produced results, there are major questions about the content of the meeting itself.


It is good for the leaders to build their mutual trust on a personal level. But this must be done in a way that is in line with Japan’s national interests and produces real results.


No progress was made in the Northern Territories issue [at the recent summit]. With regard to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, Abe failed to urge Putin to step up pressure on the regime. This is indeed regrettable.


Rather, what became clearer through the summit is Russia’s open pursuit of its own interests without care for Japan’s expectations.


Abe and Putin agreed to designate aquaculture and four other fields as priority projects in the “joint economic activities” program.


These joint economic activities could threaten Japan’s sovereignty and make it difficult to have the Northern Territories returned to Japan. That’s why Japan has been insisting that the program be carried out under a “special system,” which does not harm the legal positions of either country.


In reality, though, the joint economic activities have been taking place hastily, without regard for Japan’s sovereignty.


A special economic zone that the Russian government decided last month to build inside Shikotan based on its domestic law apparently runs counters to the “special system.”


Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, who oversees matters pertaining to the country’s Far East region, demanded Japan flesh out the five areas of cooperation within two months. Afterwards, he allegedly said, “We will solicit investors from inside Russia and the rest of the world just like in our other special economic zones.”


That is intimidation. How much did the Japanese government protest against such threatening remarks made in relation to the Northern Territories, an integral part of Japan’s territory?


If there is any significance to the joint economic activities, it lies in charting a path for Japan to regain the sovereignty of the four islands. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the approach is wrong.  


To deal with North Korea, Japan, the U.S., and South Korea are demanding more powerful additional sanctions be taken, including an oil embargo. China and Russia are prepared to object to it.


At the Eastern Economic Forum, Putin noted that “diplomatic means are the only right solution [to the North Korea issue]” and “North Korea needs to be included in economic cooperation with its neighbors.” This clearly proves that Putin and Abe had no fiery back and forth during their summit meeting. I wonder whether the Japanese people can support this relationship of trust.

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