Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 205

Apart from the prospect of increased Japanese investment and economic activity in Russia’s Far East, Tokyo has also repeatedly spoken in recent months of its support for Russia’s economic reform efforts. Such aid is presumably contingent, however, upon progress in talks on the territorial issue.

At the last Japanese-Russian summit meeting in April, then-Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reportedly proposed a plan whereby Russia would maintain administrative control over the four disputed islands for an undetermined period. But Hashimoto’s proposal–which has not been made public–is also said to have called for the Russian-Japanese border to be redrawn in such a way that at least three of the islands would ultimately be returned to Japan. Numerous Russian political leaders have rejected that proposal, however. Unnamed Russian diplomatic sources said yesterday that the Kremlin plans no “phased” turnover of the islands. They also said that Russian negotiators will do nothing to harm the country’s national interests or violate its territorial integrity (Russian agencies, November 4).

Reports yesterday suggested, meanwhile, that the actual meeting between Obuchi and Russia’s ailing president could be a short one. “Itar-Tass” quoted unnamed sources as saying that Yeltsin and Obuchi plan to meet for approximately one hour–or somewhat longer if the mood of the two leaders so dictates. If true, the report is another indication of Yeltsin’s declining involvement in Russia’s political and international affairs. In remarks to reporters yesterday, Yeltsin’s foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, emphasized that the discussion agenda for the summit would nevertheless be a broad one. It would not, he said, be dominated by the territorial issue (Itar-Tass, November 4). If that is the case, then it seems likely that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and not Yeltsin, will be Obuchi’s main discussion partner.