Japan, Russia agree to discuss nuke pact

by Reiji Yoshida

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Fradkov, agreed Wednesday to negotiations on a nuclear cooperation pact and inked accords to boost bilateral economic ties, a Japanese government official said.

The two leaders did not discuss details of the possible nuclear pact during the meeting. Trade minister Akira Amari has said Japan might outsource uranium enrichment to Russia for power plants in Japan.

Fradkov arrived Tuesday in Tokyo with a delegation of about 200 government officials and business leaders.

The Russian government and members of the delegation have signed a combined 15 agreements with Japanese government and business leaders to expand bilateral economic ties, including a deal for a joint project to lay 500 km of fiber-optic cable on the ocean floor between Hokkaido and Sakhalin, the Foreign Ministry said.

“I was quite satisfied with my talk with Prime Minister Abe,” Fradkov told reporters Wednesday evening.

Five of the 15 agreements are between the two governments, including one to help businesses enter each other’s market by means such as helping to host product exhibitions.

The remaining 10 include one signed by Isuzu Motors Ltd. and OAO Severstal-Avto of Russia to launch feasibility studies on a joint venture to produce and sell trucks in Russia.

Political issues, in particular the long-standing dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, were effectively untouched, because Fradkov’s jurisdiction is mainly limited to economic and trade issues, not political issues.

“Wide-ranging cooperation (in business) will improve the environment for resolving the territorial issue,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said. “In other words, we don’t expect that (leaders of the two countries) will have intensive discussions on the territorial issue.”

However, during the meeting, Abe did mention his determination to push for the return of the four islands, which Soviet forces seized from Japan at the end of the war, saying he wants to settle the long-standing issue while he is in office, the government official said.