Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 173

Diplomatic sources said yesterday that Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi will travel to Russia for a summit meeting with President Boris Yeltsin on or around November 11-12. The announcement followed a meeting held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York between the foreign ministers of Russia and Japan, Igor Ivanov and Masahiko Komura. Obuchi’s trip to Russia will mark the first time in some twenty-five years that a Japanese prime minister has traveled officially to Russia. The two foreign ministers also used their meeting yesterday to reaffirm their countries’ determination to sign a peace treaty by 2000. In addition, Komura pledged anew that Japan would support Russia’s reforms, while Ivanov said that Moscow would honor “Russia’s international obligations”–a reference reportedly to Russia’s intention to pursue economic reforms financed by the International Monetary Fund (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, September 21).

Yesterday’s meeting in New York follows on the heels of an unofficial visit to Moscow by former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. On September 18 Hashimoto reaffirmed that Moscow would respond formally to a Japanese proposal on the disputed Kuril Islands when Obuchi visits Russia in the autumn. Hashimoto’s remarks followed a private visit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin (Itar-Tass, September 18).

Hashimoto outlined the proposal on the islands to Yeltsin during their summit meeting in April of this year. The proposal was never made public and its precise formulation remains unknown. Media reports at the time, however, suggested that Hashimoto had called for a redrawing of the Russian-Japanese border in a fashion that would ultimately return to Tokyo at least three of the four disputed Kuril Islands–called the “Northern Territories” in Japan. The reports also suggested that the actual transfer of the islands to Japanese jurisdiction would occur only after an unspecified transition period during which the islands would be administered by Russia. The reaction in Russia to the Hashimoto plan was negative. Yeltsin, though, described the proposal as “interesting” and said that he would consider it.