JAPAN TO TRY NEW TACK IN APPROACH TO TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH RUSSIA.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 145
In a move that could jump-start long stagnant relations between the two countries, Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto yesterday revealed that Tokyo will alter its diplomatic policies toward Moscow. In a speech before the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives, Hashimoto declared that Japan’s approach to relations with Russia would henceforth be governed by three principles: trust, mutual benefit, and a long-term point of view. "Our goal is to improve Japan-Russia ties as a whole in accordance with these three principles," Hashimoto was quoted as saying.
The dispute over ownership of the Kuril Islands — known in Japan as the Northern Territories — has been the primary impediment to improved bilateral relations between the two countries. Japan has made economic cooperation and aid dependent in large part upon resolution of the islands issue, while nationalist sentiment in Russia has left the Kremlin little room to maneuver on the same set of issues. But Hashimoto indicated in his speech yesterday that the Japanese government is now prepared to show more flexibility in its dealings with Russia on the islands. "I’m convinced that the Northern Territories issue should not be solved in such a way that one party becomes a winner and the other a loser… I will rack my brains with all my energy, together with President Yeltsin, toward resolution to realize the principle of mutual benefit," Hashimoto said. During last month’s G-7 summit in Denver, Hashimoto and Yeltsin agreed to meet regularly on an informal basis, and Hashimoto said yesterday that he looks forward to conferring with Yeltsin later this year.
Japanese government sources yesterday said that the calculation underlying the change in Tokyo’s policy is a judgment that the territorial issue can not be resolved unless overall bilateral times improve over the long term and the two countries develop trust in each other. (Kyodo, July 24) That view has been expressed repeatedly by Russian diplomats and political leaders, who have sought to defer the territorial issue while nevertheless promoting economic cooperation with Japan. Until now that view has found little resonance in Tokyo.
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