Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 182

The Kremlin’s chief spokesman announced yesterday that Russian president Boris Yeltsin is hopeful that his upcoming meeting with Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will be "fruitful" and — of perhaps greater practical importance — that he is prepared to discuss any and all issues of mutual interest with the Japanese leader. (Russian news agencies, September 30) The Kremlin statement would seem to confirm that discussion of the Kuril Island territorial issue will occupy a prominent place on the agenda for the informal November 1-2 meeting in Krasnoyarsk.

A Russian newspaper commentary suggested on September 23 that the Japanese government’s recent enunciation of a new, more accommodating diplomatic approach to Russia (see Monitor, July 25) could presage a major breakthrough in relations at the Krasnoyarsk meeting. The commentator argued that Tokyo had dropped its former hard-line position — which involved holding improved political and economic ties with Russia hostage to resolution of the territorial issue — because it saw its economic competitors gaining strongholds in the post-Soviet Russian economy. In addition, Japanese leaders have been chagrined to observe the increasingly close relations that have developed between Russia and China, the commentary continued. It argued, finally, that Japan’s overtures to Russia are also part of a broader effort by Tokyo to play a more influential role in international affairs, an effort that is paralleled by Japan’s exertions to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Tokyo would like to be able to count on Moscow’s support in this matter, the commentary notes. (Kommersant, September 23)

Despite this apparent quickening of momentum in Russian-Japanese relations, delegations from the two countries failed in Tokyo on September 22-25 to achieve a break-through in talks on regulating fishing rights for Japanese fisherman in the waters around the Kuril Islands. The Kremlin announced that some progress had been made on an agreement, but conceded that the two sides remained divided on a series of related issues. The talks are to continue later this month in Moscow. (Russian agencies, September 30)

Kremlin Disavows Duma’s Territorial Claims on Lithuania.