Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 110

An unprecedented week-longtrip to Russia by Admiral Kazuya Natsukawa, chairman of the Japanese SelfDefense Forces’ Joint Staff Council, concluded on June 7 in Russia’s FarEast. During his stay Natsukawa met in Moscow with Russian Defense MinisterIgor Sergeev, General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin, and the commanders inchief of the Russian Navy, Air Force and Strategic Missile Forces. Then, inVladivostok, Natsukawa held talks with the commander of Russia’s PacificFleet, as well as with Primorye Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko and VladivostokMayor Viktor Cherepkov.

Natsukawa’s visit to Russia is the result of a decision made during lastNovember’s informal summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin andJapanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The visit was part of a broaderprogram devised by the two sides to increase contacts and improve relationsbetween the Russian and Japanese military establishments. Natsukawa’s talksin Russia appear to have contributed to that goal. Among other things,Russian General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin is now scheduled to travel toJapan in the fall, and the navies of the two countries will conduct a jointexercise in the Sea of Japan this summer. (See the Monitor, June 3)Natsukawa is also likely to have pleased his Russian hosts when he said, onJune 4, that Russia has an important role to play in maintaining Asia’ssecurity and that the dispute between Moscow and Tokyo over the KurilIslands should not hinder bilateral defense ties. (Itar-Tass, Xinhua, June 4)

But Natsukawa also staked out some positions that were probably lesspleasing to Russia. According to one Moscow daily, for example, Russianmilitary leaders were unhappy with what they saw as Japan’s unwillingness tomatch force reductions now being conducted by Russia in the Far East. Thenewspaper said that proposals in this area offered by Russian militarycommanders were turned aside by Natsukawa. (Russky Telegraf, June 5) TheJapanese defense chief also told his hosts that the U.S. military contingentin Japan would not be reduced because “American troops…play an importantrole in ensuring stability in the region.” (Itar-Tass, June 4) Moscow haslong resented the U.S. military presence in Japan and has looked with somesuspicion on a recent decision by Tokyo and Washington to strengthen theirdefense ties. (See Monitor, April 30) Finally, Natsukawa announced on June 3that Japan does not intend to purchase Russian Su-27 jet fighters.(Itar-Tass, June 3) Russian press reports have suggested that Tokyo might beinterested in the aircraft.