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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #384: March 1, 2007

Japan, Russia Aim to Solve Dispute, Tighten Ties

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan, Russia Aim to Solve Dispute, Tighten Ties


Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov was in Japan for a brief two-day visit and brought with him a large delegation of Russians, including several cabinet ministers and corporate executives. The outcome was a long list of meetings, agreements, and announcements, starting out with his meeting with Prime Minister Abe and a number of perspicacious and devious comments by the two leaders.

While the discussions this time between the senior leaders of Japan and Russia were focused on economic cooperation, the territorial dispute dragging on for more than sixty years was definitely one of the fundamental undertones playing a large role in the talks. Japan and Russia has not yet concluded a peace treaty issue to end the war which was a part of WWII because of the territorial issue.

Media were obviously nosy, and even stimulating in some respect, in observing the attitudes of the both parties in this respect. And it is often interesting to see what "their side" is saying.

Kommersant, Russia's news website, wrote, "(Mr Fradkov) persuaded Japan to increase investment into Russia's economy, saying that it is risky not to invest into Russia. Japan received no warranties that energy risks would be reduced." Reading this from the Japan side makes one wonder whether Mr Fradkov meant to be a threat. If asked, he would obviously deny it, but that's (international) politics, anyway.

One large factor, however, that has been overlooked, or consciously ignored, by most of the media is that in Russia, the responsibility on foreign relations is under the authority of President Putin, and not Mr Fradkov.

Perhaps because of this, it has been reported everywhere that Mr Fradkov kept on saying the territorial disputes should be settled in no hurry. More precisely, he was quoted as saying, "I expressed a well known idea that this issue is being tackled without any haste, as our relations assume a new quality, confidence-building measures expand and cooperation develops, primarily contacts in the economic sphere." A very diplomatic wording again, But it seems the following words represent pretty much a majority, if not a consensus, of the Japanese people - and in a lot straightforward manner than that of his counterpart.

"Japanese-Russian relations have a large and unmatched unreleased potential. ... If relations with Russia are to be further developed in the future and if they are to become bright and vigorous in the 21st century, we must resolve the territorial issue, and this position is shared by the two countries."

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