Prospects of Japanese and Russian relationships

By Kadzuhiko Togo

On September 12, 2009 the 9th conference of Russian and Japanese scientists and journalists called “Prospects of formation of a multipolar system in East Asia” took place at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. It was organized by the Research Center of East Asia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Below I would like to present the report with the insignificant addition at the closing session of the conference of the same name, “Prospects of Russian and Japanese relations.”

Having entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Japan in 1968, I had been working there for 34 years until 2002, exactly half from of which was given to work in the Soviet/Russian direction. For 16 years, since 1985, after coming to power Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet and before Irkutsk negotiations between Putin and Yoshiro Mori in 2001, I had been participating directly or indirectly in the development of Japan’s policy concerning the Soviet Union / Russia. 10 years passed after I had left in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). I thank you for the possibility to make a speech at this conference with the report called “Prospects of Japanese and Russian relations”.

Having been worked in MFA, especially as the chief of the Department of Russia in 1988-1991, defined the policy regardingRussia, and the chief of department of Europe andAsiain 1999-2001, I always divided the Japanese and Russian relations into three tendencies.

First, it is a problem of Northern territories (Kurile Islands are meant, comment of V.K). The second issue is the economic relations taking a central position in bilateral relations. The third tendency is international relations, including a problem of security. Currently, if we look on the section of the official site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan called «The basic tendencies of policy of Japan concerning Russia» we can notice that except moving of some paragraphs, basically this division was kept.

During my work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I considered, that was necessary to develop at the same time all three tendencies, and I think, Japanese and Soviet and Japanese and Russian relations, mainly developed in such way. In this connection, I would like to offer the opinion how the Japanese and Russian relations have changed for last 10 years.

The economic relations are the most successful of these three tendencies to develop. Symbolically, that then we have been discussing all time how to break through the barrier in 5 billion dollars on volume of trade in turnover of commodities withRussia. In 2007, this trade volume reached 20 billion dollars. Then the global economic crisis came but, nevertheless, it seems possible to maintain the volume of trade at a higher level than before. Recently economic relations perked up due to investments of the Japanese automobile companies to Russia.

Besides, progress of cooperation betweenJapanandRussiain development of Siberia and theFar Eastis appreciable. «The initiative of strengthening of the Japanese and Russian cooperation in regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia» offered by the prime minister Sindzo Abe at the summit meeting in Khailigendam in 2006 appealed to progress of large-scale cooperation in such fields, as energetics, transport, communication, protection of environment , etc.

The humanitarian help toJapanfrom theRussiaafter the events of March, 11 softened heart the Japanese hearts. I also want to express gratitude. The plan of help to Japan offered by a vice-prime I.Sechin was nothing than by expansion of supplying with natural gas to Japan from the regions of East Siberia and Far East.

Further, in respect of “collaboration concerning questions of international relations and problems of safety”. At that time they began to speak about absence of disagreements betweenJapanand the USSR/Russia.  Our countries began an exchange of opinions in the larger scheme of things among which there was a problem ofCambodiawhen the Cambodian matter still had not been settled, permanently unclear problem ofNorthern Korea, the crisis in Persian gulf 1990-1991. It is especially possible to note prompt expansion of measures aimed at development of confidential relations, including an exchange between two countries in the field of defense.

Nevertheless, to tell the truth, I cannot estimate this third tendency positively. For example, there is a problem of cooperation in Asian-Pacific region. The entry ofRussiain Asian-Pacific economic cooperation in1998 was implemented owing to the Japanese initiative. The Japanese prime minister made a speech on the basis of arrangements between R.Hasimoto and B.Eltsin at «the summit on creation of confidence» (then referred to « a meeting without ties») in Krasnoyarsk. The Japanese prime minister offered it is to president of the United States B. Clinton. Recently Russia and the USA have joined «the East-Asian summit meeting» .What function did Japan perform in it?? I did not hear that it was negative, but that it is positive too nothing is heard.

Besides that fact, that recently there are official statements ofRussia, similarly to speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs S. Lavrov inKhabarovskin July 2010 , not listingJapanin number of possible partners in the Asia Paсific Region, sends really cool signals to hearts of the Japanese. I was very surprised, when I heard similar opinions at the conference, appealed to think of possibilities of expansion of the Japanese and Russian cooperation.

I think, it is well known for all attendees that the greatest complication of bilateral Japanese and Russian relations for last 10 years has connected with a failure of negotiations about theNorthern territories. Moreover, no matter what happens it never appears on a site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. There is a section «Last events of Japanese and Russian relations» on the site. There is the information on four meetings at the summit meeting after visit of the president D.Medvedev on the island Kunashir. It is spoken concerning all these meetings that «the countries agreed to communicate in a quiet atmosphere». The main content of the meetings consists in that the Japanese side expressed «a regret in connection with trips of the high-ranking Russian officials on four islands».

Hardly there can be objections in regards to it is necessary « to communicate in a quiet atmosphere ». However from it neither sense that takes place nor basic landmarks is quite clear. The main point of a problem consists in that fact that negotiations have stopped, which had been proceeding (with variable success) during 25 years, since coming to power of M. of Gorbachev in autumn in 1985 up to autumn 2009 (not autumn in 2010, and one year before).

From this  25 years, for last 10 years, first of all,JapanandRussiafor the first time after the war, finally, have reached the general understanding and the general outlines at a meeting of Putin and Y.Mori in 2001 but when negotiations should have successful results, they were interrupted due to the fault of the Japanese side. Then during a period since 2006 till 2009 negotiations had been having a chance, and again it was missed due to the fault of the Japanese side. The situation which has developed in 2010 had various sometimes even the accidental reasons. The principal cause, as I already spoke, is that it is necessary to consider « a failure of negotiations ». I  consider, that now the Japanese and Russian relations face a choice on what way to go.

The first way is a way of « reductions of relations». The problem of theNorthern territorieswill be completely postponed. And though, in greater degree, the Japanese side is responsible for a failure of negotiations will lead to dragging on of rooting historically developed mistrust toRussia. For certain that will have an influence on the concept of the national security ofJapan.Russiahas state frontiers with all adjacent states except forJapan. It is such vicious circle when mistrust of one side causes mistrust of another one. A recent example is the trainings of the Russian Air Forces at the Japanese border. They were the cool message to the Japanese people. Though the minimal economic relations continue to exist, but, finally, they will remain of such kind.

The Japanese and Russian relations have one more way. It is a way  of «expansions of relations». First of all, it is necessary to look at the Japanese and Russian relations more widely for this purpose.

In 1997 when the Japanese and Russian relations were ready to develop in various tendencies, the prime minister Hasimoto laid foundations for it by the speech in July in Associations of economic adherents (Keidzaidokai) in July. He offered the new doctrine of progress of the Japanese and Russian relations on the basis of three principles: «confidence plus mutual interests plus long-term prospects». Now we need to create a psychological basis for formation of such relations. I was impressed very much by that the vice-premier Sechin in fact had quoted three these of a principle when had offered the help to  Japan after events on March, 11th.

I think, that, in the first instance, it is necessary to create a basis of mutual relations between different people according to these principles. It is necessary to strengthen a network of mutual cooperation and confidence between people of different fields of activity – heads of the states, officials, businessmen, journalists.

I consider that, search of a possibility of strategic partnership between two countries is the most important issue. It was declared In R.Hasimoto’s that now when NATO expansion to the East has stopped and from Atlantic the Euroasian diplomacy has begun, the demonstration of this diplomacy in which basis there should be a strengthening of  the Japanese and Russian relations as the weakest link of a quadrangle of the USA – China – Russia – Japan is necessary.

Currently, when since 15 years have passed, the international relations in the Asia  Pacific  Region (APR) strongly change. Driving forces of these changes are the growth of power ofChinaand the American attempts to take adequate measures. Undoubtedly, the relations withChinaare important forRussia. I completely agree that recentlyRussiashowed efforts on improvement of relations withChinain various aspects. Precisely also the relations with theUSAandChinaare important. There are some problems requiring in relations with these countries requiring the decision. Having solved these problems on the basis of wise diplomacy and the balanced defense policy of security, we should construct stable Japanese and Chinese and я Japanese and American relations.

However, on the assumption of position ofJapanandRussiain APR, whether the stable Japanese and Russian relations in promptly changing conditions will be necessary? Whether they will strengthen a strategic position of both states? As one of participants of conference has told, «the present friend is necessary, but it is not enough to have one friend. On the contrary, it is better to have many friends». In APR Japan and Russia can make efforts to increase a number of the real friends not nearly for opposition to other friends.

In such wide understanding, it is possible to think once more a territorial problem. It is the most complicated problem of modern Japanese and Russian relations. I consider it is inappropriate to go deep into details of the territorial problem more. However I shall make bold to make one remark to both sides.

I would like to tell to the Russian side that it is impossible to find the decision at an extreme position, such as «a zero version» in current situation.

I would like to advice to the Japanese side to be ready to accept result of defeat in negotiations. Beeing the participant of a part of projects, it is hard to me to accept the defeat. However, if for it there is no boldness hardly it will be possible to renew negotiations.


Translation from the Japanese  by V.V.Kuzminkov


Translation from the Russian by Irina  Kalyuzhnaya,  APIR Center

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