The fallout has continued in recent days over a reported Japanese proposal that would transfer the disputed South Kuril Islands from Russia to Japan by redrawing the Japanese-Russian border. The proposal was said to have been made by Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during his informal summit meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Japan on April 18-19. The proposal was rebuffed on April 20 by Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the chief Kremlin spokesman and a foreign policy advisor to Yeltsin. He was visiting Russia’s Sakhalin region at the time. (See Monitor, April 20-21)
On April 21, Yastrzhembsky traveled on to visit Kunashir, one of the disputed islands. While there, he told residents not to listen “to rumors that the South Kurils will sometime pass under someone else’s jurisdiction.” Russia, he said, has no “excess land” that it would want to cede to Japan. (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, April 21)
Yastrzhembsky, who was in the region in part to assess social and economic conditions there, described the four islands as a “zone of social disaster.” He told islanders that he intends upon his return to Moscow to recommend a series of urgent and special federal measures aimed at improving circumstances on the islands. Among other things, Yastrzhembsky said he would press for a program by which funds raised from Japanese fishermen would be allocated to the development of the islands. (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, April 21) Russia and Japan earlier this year signed a breakthrough agreement that regulates fishing by Japanese boats in the waters off the South Kuril Islands and that assesses fees for their catch.
Yastrzhembsky’s April 21 remarks suggest that the federal authorities may be prepared to increase aid to the south Kurils–and possibly to Sakhalin as well–in order to demonstrate a commitment by Moscow to the region’s well-being. The Kremlin is also certain to continue encouraging joint Russian-Japanese development of the islands, but probably only under conditions that in no way challenge Russia’s sovereignty over the islands.
JAPANESE PLAN FOR KURILS TO BE CONSIDERED AT MAY MEETING.