Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 117

In remarks likely to raise hackles in Japan and cool already tepid relations between the two countries, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov proposed yesterday that consideration of the Kuril Islands territorial dispute be left to "future generations." The proposal, which Primakov said was based on a formulation used by Japan and China to address a different set of territorial issues, appeared to be the same as one he had made soon after assuming the Foreign Ministry post in January. Primakov’s remarks on that occasion provoked a sharp protest from Japan’s Foreign Ministry. The two countries appeared to get relations back on track following a March 20 visit to Moscow by Japan’s foreign minister, during which Boris Yeltsin once again reaffirmed Moscow’s commitment to the 1993 Tokyo Declaration calling for a speedy resolution of the territorial dispute. (See Monitor, January 22 & March 21)

Primakov’s remarks yesterday thus suggest an unexpected retreat to an earlier, harder line, and raise the question of whether this will emerge as a general pattern in Russian diplomacy between now and the July presidential run-off. Many observers have speculated in the wake of Boris Yeltsin’s alliance with Aleksandr Lebed that the Russian president might swing farther toward a hard line on just such issues in order to win a higher percentage of the "patriotic" vote.

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