The Russian government has denied a Japanese field study team from entering Etorofu, it has been learned. The field survey team was to visit the island to look into Japan-Russia joint economic activities in the Northern Territories. The team was scheduled to leave Nemuro, Hokkaido, on Aug. 16, but the departure was delayed to Aug. 17 or later due to inclement weather.
The 55-member team is composed of Japanese government representatives, private business operators, and specialists, among others. The Japanese side initially planned to survey the three islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, and Shikotan from Aug. 16–20. The Russian Far East Sakhalin government has said that the team will not visit Etorofu and will return to Hokkaido on Aug. 19.
According to Japanese government sources, the Russian side notified Japan at the beginning of August that it had decided to deny entry to Etorofu. The Japanese side pursued negotiations to try to gain approval for the team to visit Etorofu too, but apparently no progress had been made in the negotiations by the day of departure. Kunashiri sources say entry was denied “because the Russian military is preparing for military exercises on Etorofu.”
The Japanese side wants to work out the concrete projects for joint economic activities at the Japan-Russia summit in mid-September. They are expected to include sea urchin farming and strawberry greenhouse cultivation. On Aug. 16, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Eiichi Hasegawa, who is leading the study team, said to reporters at the Port of Nemuro: “We would like to make the projects as concrete as possible.”