Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 203

Sources in Moscow reiterated yesterday that ailing Russian President Boris Yeltsin will indeed meet with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi during next week’s Russian-Japanese summit meeting in the Russian capital. Diplomatic sources suggested, however, that the official portion of Obuchi’s visit will be shortened by at least a day–and will run from November 11-12 rather than from November 10-13, as had been planned earlier. The direct talks between Yeltsin and Obuchi may, moreover, all take place on one day–November 12. Russian sources suggested that, even if that were the case, the two men would still complete the full schedule of official events that had been planned previously. Obuchi is expected to meet also with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (Russian agencies, November 2). The latest tweaking of the summit schedule comes amid speculation that Yeltsin’s health problems might force a postponement of the summit meeting, or a shift of venues. Yeltsin is currently convalescing in Sochi.

Next week’s summit is an important one, not least because it marks the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister to Russia in some twenty-five years. It also comes following changes of government in both countries. It is thus seen as a test of whether Moscow and Tokyo can maintain the diplomatic momentum built up earlier by former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and a healthier Boris Yeltsin. Several documents are expected to be signed at next week’s summit, including an agreement on investments and–of greater general importance–a joint Russian-Japanese declaration. The latter document, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry official, is to be called the “Moscow Declaration.” It will reportedly contain the “two countries’ views of the future, [and] an outline of how Japan and Russia will interact not only with one another, but also with the surrounding world” (Russian agencies, November 2).

Officials from both sides also suggested yesterday that the Kuril Islands territorial dispute will be on next week’s agenda. Tokyo has made clear its desire that Yeltsin respond officially to a Japanese proposal on the islands conveyed to Yeltsin by Hashimoto during their informal summit this past April. A number of Russian sources have intimated in recent weeks that Tokyo is likely to be disappointed by the Russian response. Moscow diplomats, meanwhile, have suggested that the two sides have largely completed work on a draft treaty that would bring a formal end to World War II. Russian and Japanese negotiators are said still to be far apart on one of its key components, however. That is the one dealing with the territorial dispute (Russian agencies, November 2; see also the Monitor, October 27).