By Andrey Fedyashin
Russia is prepared to develop cooperation with Japan in all spheres of trade and economy and would like to ‘close’ all the problems that both countries inherited from the past, Vladimir Putin announced at the final press-conference on Sunday after the APEC summit in Vladivostok.
‘Problems of the past’ are the big headache of the sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. The dispute about them still undermines relations between Tokyo and Moscow and prevents them from signing a peace treaty. The Russian president met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda during the APEC summit. No meeting between Russian and Japanese leaders takes place without debating this topic. The Russian president said that an agreement was reached during the latest meeting that Noda would come to Russia to discuss the territorial issue “at ease”. However, Putin did not mention any definite date.
“Japan is our long-standing traditional partner, one of the key partners in the region. We know the prospects and the level of development of the Japanese economy and we also know its problems. We are interested in developing relations with Japan, so we would like to ‘close’ all problems that we inherited from the past.”
Judging by Russian president’s words, the Kremlin insistently urges Japan to separate policy from economics. Vladimir Putin gave examples of the advantages of this approach.
“You know that Gazprom signed an agreement with Japanese partners on liquefied gas yesterday. This project has every chance of a large-scale development because Japan is a significant consumer of energy resources, as it has no resources of its own. We are prepared to lend Japan a hand here, the more so because in this field we cooperate with Japan according to market rules. Both Russia and its Japanese partners are satisfied with the work on the Sakhalin Island. We are planning to expand this work in all respects.”
Experts do not choose to predict Japan’s response to this. On the one hand, Yoshihiko Noda has the reputation of a ‘financial samurai’ capable of going to all lengths to improve his country’s financial and economic situation. On the other hand, the uncompromising position of the Democratic Party of Japan on the territorial dispute about the Kuril Islands still holds. The opinions of right-of centre Liberal Democrats who ruled Japan for 55 years before the Democratic Party of Japan and Noda differ very little from the position of their left-of-centre or Liberal descendants.