The Russian leader’s latest remark was probably aimed at disturbing Japan to gain the upper hand in negotiations with this country. The government should not be unsettled and adhere to its principle that the dispute over the northern territories must be resolved as a prerequisite.
At the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that their nations forge a peace treaty by the end of the year, without setting any preconditions.
The proposal runs counter to Japan’s basic policy of concluding the peace pact after the dispute over possession of the four northern islands is settled. There will also be concerns that after such a treaty is concluded, Russia may put off territorial talks, thereby continuing to unlawfully occupy the islands. The proposal, which will postpone dealing with the territorial issue, is unacceptable.
During summit talks two days before the forum, Putin did not refer to such a proposal. His abrupt remark, made in the presence of an audience, is also questionable as a matter of diplomatic etiquette.
At a debate held in the run-up for the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election, the prime minister emphasized that Japan remains unchanged in its stance on the issue. In reference to Putin’s remark, he said, “There is no doubt that he has expressed his eagerness that the peace treaty is necessary.” Abe’s comment seems to show he does not want to waste the talks that have so far been accumulated.
In conducting diplomacy with Russia, the prime minister is holding negotiations based on a strategy with which to promote personnel exchanges and economic cooperation in all parts of Russia, thereby finding a solution to the territorial dispute.
Consider economic ties
In 2016, an eight-item plan for cooperation, including projects in the fields of energy and medical services, was decided between the two leaders. However, such projects as large-scale infrastructure improvement remain to be initiated.
Slapped with European and U.S. sanctions, Russia has become even more deeply isolated in the international community, and its economy has also been in the doldrums. It is unavoidable for Japanese corporations to remain unwilling to actively join projects in Russia.
Putin’s remark seems to display his frustration with the status quo.
“A Japan-Russia summit in November or December will be important,” the prime minister has said. It is essential to accommodate Russia’s wishes regarding economic cooperation and make steady progress in territorial negotiations.
In the first place, the primary objective of concluding a peace pact is to terminate a state of war, addressing problems related to compensation and claim rights and deciding on the territory of pertinent nations.
Under the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, such problems as state-of-war termination and compensation were settled. There is no point in concluding a peace treaty between the two nations without addressing the territorial issue.
The joint declaration states that the group of Habomai islets and Shikotan Island will be handed over to Japan after a peace treaty is concluded. Putin has long attached importance to the declaration.
Putin has emphasized it takes a long time to conduct territorial talks. What he has in mind is that it took 40 years to demarcate borders with Norway in exclusive economic zones in the Arctic Ocean.
Negotiations between Japan and Russia have lasted for many years. It is necessary to set a course for resolving the territorial dispute.