• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration is not giving priority to Japan-Russia relations, Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency said in a commentary dispatched from Tokyo on Friday.

“Japan’s new course was quick to victimize its relations with Russia,” the report said, in reference to Koizumi’s pledge to bring about sweeping change in all areas, including political administration.

The article said that the Foreign Ministry’s dismissal of Ambassador to the Netherlands Kazuhiko Togo “signals an end to a whole chapter in the Japanese-Russian relations that, some time in the past, were often referred to as ‘a quality new level of bilateral dialogue.’ “

Togo left the ministry on Friday for his role in inciting policy divisions within a ministry bureau over Russian affairs.

The report is seen as highlighting Russia’s negative stand on the ministry’s attempts to remove the influence on the ministry of Lower House member Muneo Suzuki.

“Bilateral contacts are past their heyday, when Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin had six meetings over a period as short as 12 months,” it said.

“There are few signs yet that the bilateral rapport of that kind could revitalize soon. At any rate, the Cabinet of the incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi does not seem disposed to it,” the report added.

Togo is said to have worked closely with Suzuki while serving as director general of the European and Oceanian Affairs Bureau from August 1999 to May 2001. The bureau changed its name to the European Affairs Bureau in January 2001.

Suzuki, from Hokkaido, left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last month to take responsibility for allegations that he was excessively involved in the Foreign Ministry’s affairs, particularly over Russia.

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