The Russian parliament debated the South Kurile problem on Monday, March 18. The word “problem” is not the right one to be used in this case; the deputies do not think there is a problem about Kurile at all. The parliament asked the government to confirm Russia’s right to ownership of the four islands. Izvestia reports that members of the Duma committees for security, international affairs, and the geopolitics commission suggested that Vladimir Putin should review the concept of the authorities and different departments, according to which a territorial dispute over the Kurile islands exists between Russia and Japan. It was stated at the session that relations with Japan should to be started from the very beginning once again: a complex partnership and good neighborhood agreement is to be concluded on the “inadmissibility of Russia’s territorial concessions." This kind of approach to the problem is disagreeable for Tokyo. The talks on Japan’s claims to South Kurile can be considered as postponed for a very long period. Neither Moscow, nor Tokyo will allow mutual concessions under the present conditions. South Kurile is a very painful problem for politicians of both countries. Duma deputies have announced a very audacious suggestion: they offer to sell the islands. Head of the Duma’s committee for international affairs Dmitry Rogozin says the sum of $2.5 trillion would be reasonable, but Vladimir Zhirinovsky thinks $1 trillion will be quite enough. At that, we can hardly believe the deputies were serious about the figures. The sums are extremely great even for such a strong economy as the Japanese. However, at the same time, the idea may seem rather attractive for Japan, and a large-scale Kurile trading may start. That is why the deputies should have been more cautious with their statements. Tokyo may assume that the position voiced by the deputies is in fact Russia’s official position as well. Japan may then think that Russia is hesitant about the price only. It looks as though the Japanese hear exactly what they wish to hear when it comes to the Kurile islands problem.
In addition a scandal broke out in Japan several weeks ago; one of the Japanese Liberal Democratic leaders, Muneo Suzuki, was involved in the scandal. Mr.Suzuki is considered today to be one of the key creators of Japan’s policy towards Russia. Japan’s ex-foreign minister, Machiko Tanaka, was in conflict with Mr.Suzuki, which caused her resignation from the post. Mr. Suzuki is accused of assisting the transfer of financial aid meant for South Kurile through a Hokkaido-based company. The intention of incumbent foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi to reshuffle the Foreign Ministry, where many Suzuki followers work, has greatly contributed to the conflict as well. The majority of the officials in the ministry are experts on Russia. The situation inside the ministry already suggested they should look for new jobs.
Lately, the dispute regarding the Kurile islands has become more emotional and less constructive. A solution of the problem can hardly be expected in the nearest future. This means the Russian-Japanese relations will remain cold for a long time to come.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
On the map: most Japanese think, the Kurile islands (Sakhalin included) are to belong to Japan
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/03/19/38433.html