Moscow and Tokyo have failed to understand each other once again, such is the impression of Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov after his visit to Japan. The main problem of misunderstanding concerns ownership of the four Kurile islands. On Thursday, February 7, a traditional day of the northern territories was celebrated in Japan. And Japanese politicians have made statements on the problem. But nothing new was reported at that. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi spoke once again about signing of an amicable treaty and return of the islands to Japan. He said, the islands were to be returned first, only after that a treaty could be signed. But it looks as though Tokyo has toughened its position on purpose. Originally, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yorico Kawaguti told, her Russian colleague was ready to hold the talks in the “2 plus 2” format. The scheme had been proposed by ex-prime minister of Japan Yosiro Mori. The scheme provides for Russia’s passing of the islands of Shikotan and Habomai to Japan first, then Moscow and Tokyo are to conclude an amicable treaty, and only after that will start consideration of the problems connected with the Kunashir and Iturup islands. Moreover, it is known beforehand, what Japan expects from Russia in this case – it would like these territories to be also handed over to Japan.
And now, after Igor Ivanov’s refutation of his colleague’s statement that the problem will be discussed in the “2 plus 2” format, the problem has resumed its normal course. Japan insists on absolute passing of the Kurile islands to Japan, but Moscow will not agree to it.
It looks as if Japan is quite satisfied with the situation, when the parties have been unable to conclude an amicable treaty for about sixty years already. Moscow and Japan must be understanding perfectly well that the situation is abnormal, but there are still few motives for settlement of the problem. First of all, actually Russia is unattractive for Japan as a commercial partner. Moscow has been dissatisfied with the amount of the commercial output between the countries for a long period already. Tokyo would also like to develop the economic relations, but until Japanese companies have better, more attractive markets, no adequate dialogue can be expected.
There is one reason for Russia to be dissatisfied with such solution of the problem. Russia would face lots of problems in transfer of the islands to Japan. A dangerous precedent can be created for Germany to demand of return of the Kaliningrad region.
So, no progress in the relations between Russia and Japan is to be expected within the nearest time. As long as Tokyo is so much concerned about the Kurile islands return, Japanese politicians will interpret statements of their Russian colleagues the way they like.
Photo by NTVRU.Com
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/07/36753.html