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Editorial: PM Abe should cancel his visit to Russia

Russia unlawfully occupies the Northern Territories. It criticized Japan’s recent protests, describing them as “extremely close to interference in Russia’s internal affairs.”


Russia acts as if a brazen thief.


The Japanese government protested Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to Etorofu and the Russian military’s exercise near Kunashiri as actions “at variance with Japan’s stance.”


In response, on Aug 6 Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov summoned Japanese Ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuki, telling him that as Japan’s protests are tantamount to interference in Russia’s internal affairs, these are “unacceptable.” In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that “the islands lawfully became Russian territory as a result of World War II.”


Japan’s protests are legitimate and Russia’s claim is totally unacceptable. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to attend the Eastern Economic Forum 2019 slated to be held in Vladivostok in September. This is outrageous. He should cancel his trip.


It is regrettable that once again Japan’s weak-kneed attitude toward Russia has become obvious.


It is reasonable that Ambassador Kozuki responded by telling Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov that Prime Minister Medvedev’s visit to Etorofu was unacceptable and that Japan can’t countenance a military exercise near Kunashiri.  


However, the Japanese government’s response following Ambassador Kozuki’s protest was wrong.


At the press conference held on Aug. 7, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “I want to refrain from commenting as we need to advance peace treaty negotiations in a calm environment. He did not rebut Russia’s reference to “interference in Russia’s internal affairs.” The same day Prime Minister Abe congratulated House of Representatives member Shinjiro Koizumi and Christel Takigawa on their engagement, but made no reference to the Northern Territories.


On Aug. 8, the Japanese government sent a councilor of the Japan Tourism Agency to Moscow where representatives from the two countries discussed tourism projects which are part of joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands.


No wonder Russia makes light of Japan. On Aug. 8, Prime Minister Medvedev ordered relevant ministries and agencies to draw up economic development plans on the four Northern Islands and submit them by Sept. 2. Aug. 8 is the day when the former Soviet broke the Japan-Soviet Neutrality Pact in 1945 and declared war against Japan. Sept. 2 is the day to commemorate the “victory over Japan.”


Prime Minister Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga should in their own words denounce Russia for its hardline stance.  And then, the Japanese government should return to its original policy of demanding that the four Northern Islands are an inherent part of Japan and should be returned. It is necessary to revise diplomacy toward Russia.

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