Offering assurances to reporters that Moscow intends to invite Japan’s new prime minister to Russia for a summit with President Boris Yeltsin, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko wound up a two-day visit to Japan yesterday with a press conference that followed talks with top Japanese businessmen. Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto resigned his post following last weekend’s parliamentary election defeat, but will remain prime minister until a successor is chosen. Hashimoto was scheduled to visit Russia in the fall for a third meeting with Yeltsin.
Kirienko also restated the point, which had been made following his talks with Hashimoto a day earlier, that friendly relations between Russia and Japan are based on national interests and can survive the political turbulence now engulfing both countries. That and related points were contained in a joint communique issued by Japan and Russia at the close of Kirienko’s visit. The communique called for, among other things, both a continuous dialogue between the two countries and further progress in negotiations toward concluding a treaty which would formally end World War II between Russia and Japan. Kirienko said that his agenda in Japan had not included discussion of the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. Talks on that subject, Russian and Japanese sources suggested, have been put off until the hoped-for fall summit meeting between Yeltsin and Japan’s new prime minister. Yeltsin is expected at that time to respond formally to a proposal from Hashimoto that, in effect, is reported to have called for the eventual transfer of the disputed islands to Japan. (Kyodo, Russian agencies, July 14)
From Tokyo, Kirienko set off yesterday for Beijing, where he held talks with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. The meeting with Zhu was part of a regular series of consultations between the prime ministers of the two countries that began in late 1996. The talks yesterday, and particularly those between Kirienko and Zhu, reportedly focused on ways to reverse stagnating levels of bilateral trade. Defense cooperation, including Russian arms sales to China, was reportedly also on the agenda. In addition, the two sides discussed preparations for an informal summit meeting scheduled for September between Jiang and Yeltsin. (Itar-Tass, July 14) Russia and China have repeatedly declared themselves to be joined in a “strategic partnership,” but have had some trouble giving substance to such proclamations, particularly in the area of trade.
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