Russian-Japanese relations after Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan

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Russian-Japanese relations after Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan 06.03.2017 14:31

Historic visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan showed a qualitatively new stage in the development of relations between Moscow and Tokyo. He not only secured the intermediate results achieved by the parties in the course of meetings at the highest level during 2016, but also marked the beginning of fruitful work between the relevant ministries of both countries

At the same time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his intention to conclude a peace treaty with Russia, which has not been signed by the end of the Second World War, as well as to settle the problem of the so-called "northern territories." The basis for this was the fact that the leaders of our countries in Tokyo, it was decided on joint economic activities on the four disputed islands in the South Kuriles. This decision will contribute to the economic development of the regions of the Far East, including Sakhalin region as the most geographically close to Japan subject of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the Russian-Japanese relations continue to develop in two complementary tracks: in the field of politics and economy

11-12 January 2017 Moscow was visited by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan and the Minister of Economic Affairs of the Russian Federation Hiroshige Seco. He held a meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Minister of Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov and the speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko.

Thus, in the Russian Government Japanese Minister discussed a number of areas and projects provided for "8-point plan" by Shinzo Abe. At a meeting of the Council of Federation Hiroshige Seco he was present as chairman of the Japan-Russia "Discussion Club" House of the Japanese Parliament advisers. In response, the Russian side was created the Advisory Council for the Promotion of Russian-Japanese inter-parliamentary cooperation, which was headed by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev. This advice will help you find the joint projects to be implemented at the regional level with a view to the economic development of subjects of the Russian Far East.

Further, 16-18 January 2017, Nobuo Kishi visited Russia, Abe's younger brother, who is the Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. His visit has been dictated by the need to meet with representatives of the Government related to bilateral cooperation.

And it confirms that the process of intensification of Russian-Japanese political and economic contacts at the official level is continuing, which is quite natural in front of the planned visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia, which may take place at the end of April 2017 Prime Minister of Japan also plans to attend the annual East economic forum in Vladivostok, which will be held on September 6-7 this year.

To activate the political dialogue with Russia and promoting negotiations on a peace treaty in the Japanese government at the end of January 2017 there have been personnel changes. For example, a government official in charge of relations with Russia became Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba. Already on March 18, he will hold talks in Tokyo on joint economic activities on the Kuril Islands with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Igor Morgulovym.

In addition, the Department of Europe, Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was headed by Yasushi Masaki. Previously, he served as Head of the Department of International Law and the deputy head of the Department of Economics. Department of Russia, which is a part of this department, headed Tadaatsu Mori, who previously headed the international treaties office. This gives reason to believe the seriousness of the intentions of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the settlement of the problem of "northern territories" and the conclusion of the Russian-Japanese peace treaty.

February 7, 2017, on the day of the Treatise on trade between Russia and Japan (1855), in Tokyo, the first meeting of the interdepartmental "Council on joint economic activities" took place. It consists of the Minister of Economy, Trade, Industry of Japan Hiroshige Seco is responsible for the development of economic relations with Russia, representatives of finance ministries of health, labor, welfare, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The Council was headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Fumio Kishida. This addressed issues of joint economic activities with Russia in areas such as fishing, mining seafood, tourism, medicine and ecology. Establishment of the Council treated the Japanese side in the framework of intensifying the political dialogue between our countries, which is aimed at the conclusion of the relevant Treaty.

The approaches of Russia and Japan to the organization of joint economic activities on the South Kuril ridge islands have a number of differences. Moscow, according to Japanese expert Taysuke Abiru, seeks to identify relevant projects and, if necessary, to establish a special legal regime for their implementation. For Tokyo's position is typical of the special arrangements on economic activity, which could create a special environment for the solution of the territorial dispute and signing a peace treaty.

It should be noted that the Russian side sees economic activity as the key to the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan, but it does not connect it with the solution of the territorial dispute. It is believed that the economic development of these islands serves as a backdrop to the bilateral consultations. The latter are carried out behind closed doors on looking for mutually acceptable solutions to sensitive issues of bilateral cooperation with a view to arriving at an acceptable option for the parties to the peace agreement.

At the meeting of the "G-20" foreign ministers in Bonn, which took place on February 17, 2017, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Japan have agreed to be held on March 20 at Tokyo consultations in the format of "2 + 2" with the participation of foreign and defense ministers. As well as the parties confirmed the resumption of March 30 this year in Tokyo, a new round of strategic dialogue at the level of first deputy foreign ministers.

At the same time Japan's defense ministry intends to discuss the format of cooperation with their Russian counterparts on the expansion joint naval exercises, coordination of questions about the exchanges between the command of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

In particular, the "2 + 2" is expected to discuss the possibility of strengthening the cooperation of Japan and Russia in the fight against terrorism and piracy. Practical work in this direction may work soldiers of our countries in the course of joint exercises, both with working measures on search and rescue at sea. For the Japanese side is no less important and the question of placing on the islands of South Kuril ridge Russian coastal missile systems Ball and Bastion and the increased presence of troops, as well as Russian combat aircraft flight issues at border region with Japan, which requires Tokyo appropriate response.

On March 18, 2017 it is scheduled to hold discussions of deputy foreign ministers of our countries on the establishment of joint economic activities on the islands of the South Kuril Islands. In particular, the proposals worked out in the most promising areas of cooperation, such as fish farming of species of fish and seafood, fish processing (construction of plants for the processing of fishery products with the participation of Japanese technology), improvement of infrastructure, geothermal energy, tourism, medicine and many other areas. In this regard, experts point out that the disputed islands are necessary to maintain as a national park with well-developed social infrastructure and recreation areas.

In the upcoming negotiations, Deputy Foreign Minister of Japan, Takeo Akiba will try to convey the position that economic activities must not violate the legal interests of Tokyo on the "northern territories". It is known that the Japanese side in the negotiations is ready to offer some ideas that may be implemented in cooperation with Russia on the South Kuril Islands.

Firstly, it is to provide remote medical assistance, in particular advising patients and the local doctors on the Internet.

Secondly, Russian and Japanese companies will be able to organize cruises for Japanese tourists to some islands of the South Kurils without landing. In this regard, it is worth noting that the people of the island of Hokkaido have asked the Japanese authorities on the establishment of direct air links with the "northern territories." It is obvious that the local population needs differ significantly from the proposals put forward by the Government of Japan, which was aware that the disputed islands are under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and military control.

Thirdly, the Japanese authorities are counting on the collaboration of environmentalists of the two countries and their joint work on the preservation of the environment.

Fourthly, in the field of fisheries, the Japanese government hopes to create joint ventures for processing of salmon and other fish species, as well as the production of shellfish "abalone". There is no doubt that this could be the first step towards achieving a positive outcome to address the "northern territories" and the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries.

According to the results at the end of December (2016), President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan between the two countries signed the "Memorandum of Cooperation to identify a list of Russian companies participating in the initiatives 'performance enterprises Diagnostics" and "Training in related industries.'" And in order to "encourage the diversification of Russia's industrial structure and improve performance," according to the memorandum, the Japanese government plans to invite Russian specialists for training.

List of Russian enterprises, which Japanese experts will carry out "performance diagnostics," consists of 12 plants. Six of them are located in Ulyanovsk, two in Moscow and one in Belgorod, Kaluga, Samara and Vologda regions. All of them are connected with the production of automotive components. Among them are not only large enterprises, such as the Company Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant, JSC Sokolsky dock, but also relatively small production, for example of Pegas slang, dedicated to the manufacture of self-propelled sprayers, spreaders. In general, the list of Russian factories in which Japanese experts will help train personnel, including 25 companies which are also related to automotive components and metal (PJSC Severstal, NLMK and MMK).

As part of one of the eight points on the improvement of the urban environment, Shinzo Abe proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2016 in Sochi, Voronezh plans to implement five projects to improve the urban environment and the comprehensive modernization of housing and communal services. In particular, one of the projects provides intelligent traffic management system, which must be installed by August 2017.

As positive it is worth noting that the Russian Far East airline Aurora (a structural unit of PJSC Aeroflot) in Primorsky Krai a new flight Vladivostok Tokyo to Vladivostok on the spring and summer cherry blossom in Japan. Note that in the framework of the development of the tourism industry and the future increase of the tourist flow in the Nippon Coke on January 1 has been simplified visa regime for Russian citizens. Now Russian citizens can receive multiple-entry visas for up to 5 years, and for their preparation does not require an invitation from a trip to the guarantor of the Japanese side.

In addition, Japanese business is interested in the development of enterprises in the company towns of Primorsky Krai. So, the Japanese company Marebuni Corporation may participate in the development of city-forming enterprises Dalnegorsky GOK and Dalpolimetall in Dalnegorsk, as well as in the modernization of port Ore Pier. This port can accommodate vessels with a large displacement in the future, including the organization of foreign checkpoint.

Moreover, the cooperation of the Japanese company and Dalnegorsky GOK is a producer of boric acid originates in the Soviet period. In this regard, representatives of the Japanese company noted that the cooperation will be beneficial to both parties, for example, in the purchase of the enterprise of sulfuric acid in Japan and not in Norilsk, as is the case today. Obviously, it would be beneficial for the Russian company only considering an acceptable cost of Japanese products.

Returning to the idea of Russian President Vladimir Putin declared them on the East Economic Forum in Vladivostok in 2015 on the establishment of an energy bridge between the North-East Asian countries in the framework of the Asian energy ring, it should be noted that this initiative in addition to Softbank and joined a number of other Japanese companies, who are willing to participate in the consortium. The first step for the implementation of this project will be the cabling from Primorsky Territory to Japan.

As part of the development of oil and gas fields by Russian company Gazpromneft-Sakhalin has signed a contract with the Japanese Hakuryu 5, Inc (100% subsidiary of Japan Drilling Co., Ltd) to lease the rig for exploratory and appraisal well on Ayashsky license area, which is part of Sakhalin-3 in the sea of Okhotsk.

At the last Russian investment forum in Sochi on27-28 February 2017 it was aimed at the development of Russian regions and mainly focuses on three thematic blocks: "The new regional policy. Opportunities for Development", "Increasing business efficiency. Opportunities for Growth" and" Implementing the projects for life". In this regard, JSC Russian Railways and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of Japan agreed to establish a working group to work out the project of construction of transport crossing between Russia and Japan. JSC Russian Railways in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation are going to submit to the Government the rationale for the creation of a transport passage between the mainland and the island of Sakhalin.

Thus, Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan bore the historical character. And it took place in conditions of continuing US dominance in the foreign policy of this country. However, the Japanese government continued the policy of rapprochement of relations with Russia, which will cause the Americans increasingly irritated. This is appreciated in Moscow, where he is extremely interested in Japanese technology and investment, so necessary for the development of the regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia.


Kharitonova Darya - Researcher at the Department of Eurasian integration and development of the SCO CIS Institute.