STAFF, WRITER – Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again lived up to his reputation: his legendary tardiness.
Putin arrived at Yamaguchi Ube Airport shortly before 5 p.m., nearly three hours later than originally planned. The delay significantly pushed back his first meeting of the day with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a working dinner set for later in the evening.
In the morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said a departure delay was to blame.
Their summit meeting began shortly after 6 p.m. in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, about two hours behind schedule, and ended at around 9 p.m.
Putin’s history of keeping global leaders waiting is well documented. Victims range from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and even Pope Francis, often making them wait hours at a time.
Observers say it may be an intentional tactic to create anxiety ahead of the meeting to give him a psychological advantage. Or maybe he wants to show he holds the upper hand in a game of power politics, they say.
When Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida paid a visit to Putin on Dec. 2 in Moscow to lay the groundwork for Thursday’s bilateral summit, Kishida was kept waiting for nearly two hours, with the meeting lasting only 30 minutes.
Asked about Putin’s tardiness on Thursday, Suga told a news conference that he didn’t believe there was a political calculation behind the delay. But a high-ranking official said Tokyo is well aware of the fact that Putin often shows up late to talks. “He always comes late to a meeting with European leaders, including (those from) Germany,” the official said. “This time, we have plenty of time” for talks in Japan.
Faced with free time because of the delay, Abe visited the tomb of his father, Shintaro Abe, who as foreign minister in the 1980s tried to conclude a peace treaty with the Soviet Union by resolving the territorial dispute. Nagato is the hometown of the Abe family, and the tomb is in the city.