Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 66

Russia’s domestic political problems intruded in the country’s foreign affairs over the weekend as Moscow moved to postpone a long-scheduled summit meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The informal "no-neckties" summit — to have been held in the Japanese city of Kawana on April 11-13 — has been tentatively rescheduled for one week later (April 18-19). It is unclear whether Kawana will remain the site of talks, which have apparently also been shortened by a day. Reports that the summit might be postponed had surfaced late last week, but had been denied in Moscow and Tokyo. The decision to postpone was apparently taken officially during a telephone conversation between Yeltsin and Hashimoto on April 4. The Japanese leader was in London for the second Asia-Europe Meeting.

The Kremlin cited ongoing difficulties in the naming of a new Russian government — expected to last well into this week — as the reason for its postponement request. Japanese government officials, in turn, were reported to have expressed understanding over the rescheduling. The two sides, according to Yeltsin’s press service, were said to have agreed that it would be "expedient" to hold the meeting after a new Russian prime minister has been confirmed.

The telephone conversation between Yeltsin and Hashimoto on April 4 followed intensive discussion of the upcoming summit meeting among a wide range of Russian officials. On April 3, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov presided over a first meeting of the Russian contingent of a joint Russian-Japanese commission tasked with drafting a peace treaty between the two countries. Among those taking part were representatives of the Foreign Ministry, both chambers of Russia’s parliament, the Ministries of Finance, Economics, Defense, and Justice, as well as of the Federal Border Service, the Federal Security Service, and the Foreign Intelligence Service. Igor Farkhutdinov, the governor of Sakhalin oblast, was also in attendance. There were said to be no decisions taken at that meeting. Nor were any specific approaches formulated with regard to negotiations on a peace treaty. Also on April 4, Yeltsin met with both acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and presidential spokesman — and foreign policy coordinator — Sergei Yastrzhembsky to discuss issues related to the upcoming visit to Japan. (AP, April 3; Itar-Tass, Kyodo, April 3-4)

Background Bickering in Russian-Japanese Talks.