Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 106

Yuri Koptev, the general director of the Russian Space Agency, arrived in Japan yesterday for talks on cooperation in the launching of the international space station Alpha. The discussions will include the leaders of Japan’s National Space Development Agency, the U.S. NASA, and the European and Canadian Space Agencies. Koptev is also to meet with other Japanese officials, including the Foreign Ministry’s Takekazu Kawamura, who along with Koptev co-chairs a Russian-Japanese Commission for Cooperation in Space Research. The commission has yet to convene, although its creation was provided for in an intergovernmental agreement signed during Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s October 1993 visit to Japan. (Itar-Tass, May 29)

Koptev’s visit is but the latest in a recent series of top level meetings between Japanese and Russian government officials. On May 16 Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov (who was subsequently, and unexpectedly, dismissed from his post on May 22) arrived in Japan for three days of talks with Japanese political and military leaders. The visit, the first to Japan by a Russian defense minister, was aimed at boosting cooperation between the armies of the two countries. During his stay Rodionov also announced that Russia would further reduce its military forces in the Far Eastern region as part of a broader military reform effort, and he pledged to cut the number of Russian troops stationed on the disputed South Kuril Islands. Prior to his departure for Moscow, Rodionov told the press that Russia is in no way opposed to the Japanese-U.S. military alliance, and called for the construction of a multilateral security system in the Asia-Pacific region. (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, May 16-18)

Less than a week later, Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda arrived in Moscow for talks of his own with Russian leaders, including a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin. The two sides negotiated on an agreement by which Japan would provide technical assistance in the training of soldiers transferred to the reserve from military units based in the South Kurils and in other parts of Russia’s Far East, but failed to sign the accord. Although little of obvious significance appeared to come from the talks, both sides did hail the visit as another step in what they said were improving bilateral ties. They also confirmed that Russian first deputy premier Boris Nemtsov would visit Japan on June 9-10 for the second meeting of a Russian-Japanese Commission on Trade and Economic Relations. Nemtsov was recently named a co-chair of the commission. (Itar-Tass, May 23-24)

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