Toward a Japan-Russia peace treaty

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in their Moscow meeting Monday to restart talks for concluding a peace treaty, which Japan hopes would lead to resolving the bilateral dispute over the sovereignty of the Northern Territories — four islands off the coast of Hokkaido that are occupied and controlled by Russia.

They agreed in their joint statement that it is abnormal that the two countries have not yet signed a peace treaty 67 years after the end of World War II.

Significantly they agreed to instruct their respective foreign ministries to accelerate talks to create a solution acceptable to both parties concerning the peace treaty issue.

Both leaders must prevent their diplomats from wasting precious time without producing any concrete results.

Japan takes the stand that only after the sovereignty issue over the islands is resolved will Japan sign a peace treaty. But there are no signs that Russia will make concessions beyond the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration, under which Russia is to return two of the four islands — the Shikotan and Habomai islands — to Japan.

It is important for Japan to realize that unless trustful bilateral relations are established, it cannot expect Russia to make concessions on the territorial issue.

At the same time, Japan must take utmost care to prevent Russia from just taking advantage of Japan’s efforts to deepen bilateral ties and doing nothing to resolve the dispute.

Mr. Abe and Mr. Putin agreed to develop bilateral ties in every field on the principle of mutual trust and mutual benefits. They agreed to strengthen contact between the two countries’ leaders, including regular mutual visits, and to have their foreign ministers hold a meeting at least once a year through mutual visits.

This is a rational approach if the two countries are to deepen their bilateral ties.

Russia wants to strengthen its economic relations with Japan because it is becoming difficult to rely on Europe as importers of Russian energy resources due to economic stagnation there and increased availability of natural gas for Europe through the shale gas revolution. Japan, impacted by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, needs to import cheap liquefied natural gas for its thermal power plants. Russia also wants Japan’s industrial and technological know-how in developing far eastern Siberia.

The joint statement calls for expansion of cooperation in the energy field, which would include supply of energy at “competitive prices” to Japan, establishment of a “Japan-Russia investment platform” and expansion of “mutually beneficial cooperation” in transport infrastructure, the urban environment, the food industry and medical technology, instruments and drugs.

Although there may be obstacles, Japan should make efforts to establish a strong business and industrial foothold in the region to make Japan an indispensable economic partner for Russia as well as to maximize Japan’s interests.

In view of China’s attempt to increase its influence in Northeast Asia, Japan needs to deepen its ties with Russia.

Increasing cooperation in the field of defense and security, including launching meetings of Japanese and Russian foreign and defense ministers and exchanges of defense units and officials, as called for by the statement, is a reasonable approach.

  • topolcats

    I think it is clear what Abe is trying to do with rapprochement with Russia.
    That is to clearly counter Chinese inroads and balance relationships with Russia.
    Russia will accommodate a balancing of relationships with Japan, specially in trade related matters, however this balancing does not make Japan, Russia’s number one trading partner…..which is China and Japan will never ever be Russia’s number one trading partner or number 2-3-4 or 5. So a promise of more Japanese trade or investment will never counter the position China holds in relation to trade.

    Actually trade with Russia benefits the Japanese more than the Russians,as Russia is a desirable market for Japanese products. Only 13% live below the poverty line with 60% of households owning a personal computer up from 25% from 6 years ago, average wage already, adjusted for purchasing power,parity exceeds a $1,000 a month.

    Russia understands Abe’s visit is a part of the tactics of the US pivot into Asia. Russia fully understands Japan is a mere agent of America in a containment policy to weaken both China and Russia. It is also clear that Japan, being a vassal state of the US and maintaining bases in Japan is (and will always be) a significant threat to Russia’s security. The reported incursion of two Russian TU submarine warfare jets into Japanese airspace, and the scrambling of F-15 by Japan as reported by RT….while Abe was in Russia having talks with Putin……is not a coincidence, it most certainly sends an aggressive, but subtle signal to Japan and could not have happened without approval from Putin.

    • Kelly farrel

      Yes, the Japanese companies which making high quality products have no real competition at all on russian market. Russians tastes the chinese products from the start of 1991th and they don’t like the quality of chinese products all these 20 years. The label “made in china” was the symbol of very bad taste or buffoonish because all products from China always associated with bad quality and waste of money in Russia.