VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA – Russia is eager to deepen its economic ties with Japan to lay the groundwork for future generations in the two countries to find a mutually acceptable solution to a long-standing territorial dispute, a Russian minister said in a recent written interview.
Minister for the Development of the Far East Viktor Ishayev wrote in the interview that Moscow and Tokyo can remove the obstacles to a solution of the row over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido “by expanding and deepening bilateral economic cooperation.”
“Then, future generations can eventually find a way to settle (the territorial spat) that can be accepted by people of both countries under a new environment,” Ishayev said.
By referring to future generations in the interview, Ishayev, who assumed his newly created post last May, was apparently indicating that Russia believes it will be difficult to solve the dispute soon.
Ishayev, who gave the written interview ahead of his visit to Japan from Tuesday to attend a Japan-Russia forum to be held in Tokyo on Thursday, also expressed displeasure at Tokyo’s lack of response to Moscow’s efforts to facilitate joint economic development of the disputed islands.
“In the past couple of years, Russia simplified procedures (for Japanese nationals) to enter the disputed islands and allowed them to operate businesses, including fishing, but Japan has made no steps” in response to such Russian moves, he said.
The minister also said Russia has a plan to build a large-scale power plant on the island of Sakhalin with the aim of supplying electricity, via undersea cables, to Japan, whose energy mix faces major change because of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis that began in March 2011.
But Tokyo has yet to make a decision on whether to import electricity if the power plant is built, he added.
Ishayev, believed to be highly regarded by President Vladimir Putin, also said Japan and Russia can work together in such areas as aerospace, shipbuilding, marine product processing, fishing infrastructure building, geothermal power generation and tourism.