Vladimir Putin's historic visit to Japan

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Vladimir Putin's historic visit to Japan 06.02.2017 16:01



The end of the expiring year was full of important political events. The liberation of the eastern Aleppo, the purchase of Rosneft shares, reducing the level of world oil production within OPEC ... It would seem that all this should overshadow the visit of President Vladimir Putin to Japan, but this did not happen. Of course, in Japan, the results of this visit are perceived quite negatively, due primarily to high expectations. In Russia, initially more realistic approach on the so-called “northern territories” prevailed. Even in Moscow, not all correctly estimated the outcome of this visit, which actually had a historical significance. Although, if only because it took place for the first time after 11 years (and a similar visit to Islamabad did not take place). Proof of this is the report, which of course is not exhaustive. Nevertheless, we will try to analyze some of the results of the visit.

The intensification of contacts between the political leaders of the country continued throughout the past year, and the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan was the logical conclusion, which was held on December 15-16, 2016. Since 2014, under the influence of external and internal factors, it was repeatedly postponed.

For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the attempt to resolve long-term territorial dispute with Russia was one of the vectors of his foreign policy, aimed at the conclusion of the relevant Peace Treaty. And this in the terms of a serious depending Tokyo from Washington in the framework of the Agreement on mutual cooperation and security guarantees, as well as the introduction of Western anti-Russian political, financial and economic sanctions, its exclusion from the “Group of 20” and an attempt undertaken by the West of the political isolation of Moscow

The first major step towards the development of Russian-Japanese relations has become an informal meeting of the leaders of Russia and Japan on May 6, 2016 in Sochi. Then, in a constructive way it was possible to discuss a Peace Treaty issue and the solution of the territorial issue, based on a new approach free of the “ideas of the past” proposed by the Japanese side. Moreover, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered the Russian side an eight-point plan of bilateral economic development with a view to energy development, strengthening small and medium enterprises, transport and port infrastructure development of the Russian Far East, the construction of “smart cities”, creating modern medical centers, as well as the implementation of projects in the field of agriculture and mutual cultural exchanges. For its part, Russia has promised to simplify the rules in the fishing industry and significantly to reduce the cost of electricity in the Far East. In addition, the parties have agreed to simplify visa regime and to restore the regular meetings in the format of “two plus two” in the composition of foreign affairs and defense the ministers.

2-3 September, 2016 with the participation of a representative Japanese delegation was held in Vladivostok East Economic Forum. According to the results of 20 agreements totaling $1.3 billion were signed between Russia and Japan.

12-13 December, that is, on the eve of his visit to Japan, President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to a leading Japanese media. Then he said that Russia has no territorial disputes with Japan. Nevertheless, some illusions on the “northern territories” were kept by the Japanese side.

Returning to the December visit to Japan by Vladimir Putin, it should be noted that it began in Nagato (Yamaguchi Prefecture) - the hometown of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And in a personal meeting, heads of state agreed to promote the program of joint economic activities in such areas as fisheries, mariculture, tourism, medicine and ecology in the disputed South Kuril Islands. To do this, there is planned to create a special administrative system based on a new international treaty.

The second day of Vladimir Putin's visit took place in Tokyo in the form of “Russian-Japanese Business Forum”. At the plenary session of the Forum President Vladimir Putin said that Russian and Japanese Government are set to maximum support bilateral business initiatives through tax and labor legislation. He also called on Japanese companies to pay attention not only to 13 priority development territories (TOR) and the function of the free port of Vladivostok, but also on the Eurasian Economic Union. The establishment with the latter of a free-trade area is now being discussed in Japan.

All this has allowed signing of 80 documents, including 12 interdepartmental, totaling $2.54 billion. The conclusion of agreements with Russian companies, which are under US sanctions, also took place.

In particular, it was decided to create a Russian-Japanese investment fund with a capital of $1 billion. The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) became the co-investors. A loan agreement for €200 million and a memorandum of understanding were signed between OAO “Yamal LNG” and JBIC.

PJSC Gazprom signed with JBIC and other Japanese companies agreements of cooperation. With the company Mitsui it provides for an extension of the Sakhalin-2 project and LNG bunkering of sea transport. The agreement with Mitsubishi Corporation is based on the development of partnership in the field of LNG and the creation of the third stage of Sakhalin-2.

The Russian company Novatek has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mitsui in the field of extraction and liquefaction of natural gas in Russia, LNG, related equipment and technologies, as well as the joint development of the LNG markets.

The company Rosneft has signed a cooperation agreement with Marubeni Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to co-develop a feasibility study for construction of a gas chemical complex in the Far East using advanced Japanese technology. In addition Rosneft, Marubeni, Inpex and JOGMEC have agreed on the basic terms of cooperation in joint exploration, development and production of hydrocarbons in the license area in the shelf zone of Russia.

The company RusHydro has signed an agreement with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Sojits Corporation contracts for the increased use of gas turbines for projects in the territory of the Russian Far East.

Equally important documents were signed in the medical, agricultural and logistics areas. For example, a memorandum between the Mail of Russia and the Japan Post Co provides for cooperation between the companies in the development of cross-border internet-trade and increase the volume of mail. With the company Toshiba agreements were concluded for the automation of logistics systems for €53.6 million.

The Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm has agreed to sell 10% of assets for the Japanese company Mitsui. And with the Fujifilm Corporation it has signed an agreement to form a comprehensive partnership with possible localization of production and the creation of a joint company. Another Russian company CJSC Rentgenprom and the Japanese Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation have agreed on the manufacture of medical products in Russia.

Agriculture Russian company Rusargo and the Japanese company Mitsui & Co intend to introduce Japanese technology, as well as to seek the possibility of exporting products of Rusargo to the Asian markets.

Thus, Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan has not led to qualitative progress in resolving the problem of “northern territories”. At the same time, the parties reaffirmed their readiness to sign a peace treaty and the search for a mutually acceptable compromise on the existing territorial problem on the basis of economic activity in all the islands of South Kuril ridge (previously the talk was only about Hamobai and Shikotan).

An important outcome of the event was the fact that on January 11-12, 2017 the visit to Moscow by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan Hiroshige Seco took place. During the visit, the Japanese side not only agreed on reciprocal steps to implement the above-mentioned economic projects, but also got acquainted with the new directions of bilateral cooperation. In addition, it was decided that Japan would be a partner country during July 10-13, 2017 in Yekaterinburg of Innoprom International Industrial Exhibition.

Therefore, while this undoubtedly historic visit of Vladimir Putin to Japan a positive background for the further development of Russian-Japanese relations was established in the field of politics and economy, which in the future allows for the possibility of limited military cooperation between our countries. And this effect is even more intensified after the opening of this year's “Russian seasons in Japan”, and in 2018 – of cross years of Russia and Japan. As a result, the Japanese are more positive about the construction of a railway bridge from the mainland to the island of Sakhalin, and the other - from Sakhalin to Hokkaido. The realization of the project will severely load the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Railway by container cargo from Japan.

The positive changes of the regional policy of Russia, which will occur in 2017, should be taken into account. Firstly, the Russian would exit from the Western isolation. Thus, the Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano did not rule out that the format of the “G 8” with Russian participation may be restored by the summit on 25-27 May 2017 in Taormina, Italy.

Secondly, Moscow has successfully fulfilled its tasks for the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and is an active initiator of the process of political settlement in that country.

Thirdly, the Russian economy is gradually emerging from crisis. To accelerate this process, Moscow needs not only a significant investment and modern technology, but also the insistence of developed countries to political and economic cooperation with our country. And one of the most promising countries in Northeast Asia for such cooperation became Japan last year. In this regard, the Russian political leadership imposes certain hopes on the activities of Japanese companies, primarily for the purpose of development of the Russian Far East. We hope that the political success secured in 2016 by a number of agreements and memorandums of cooperation will be fixed in the new economic achievements in 2017.



Kharitonova Daria - Researcher at the Department of Eurasian integration and Development of the SCO CIS Institute.